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Europe court limits collective rights of trade unions

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] ruled [judgment, text; press release, PDF] against a Swedish trade union Tuesday, finding that it illegally blocked a Latvian construction company from completing a job in Sweden when the company refused to pay its Latvian workers higher Swedish wages. The Court held that unions cannot force foreign companies to observe local wage deals, a decision lamented by Scandinavian officials as a shock for the "Nordic social model," which places high emphasis on the rights of workers to obtain better deals through collective bargaining. The court found that collective action to force foreign companies into pay negotiations was a restriction on "the freedom to provide services," but that collective action intended to protect worker rights already guaranteed in national law is permissible under EU law. EUobserver has more.

Earlier this month, the ECJ ruled [opinion; JURIST report] that labor unions can try to prevent employers from hiring cheaper labor from other EU countries, but limited workers' right to strike. The court found that workers were entitled to strike to protect existing jobs or to preserve existing employment conditions, but that they could not prevent companies from moving to new bases of operation. The ECJ ruled that striking is legal "only if it pursues a legitimate aim such as the protection of workers."

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