From the Socialist Party in the Netherlands:
SP: ‘No EU interference with right to strike’
May 22nd, 2012 • SP Member of Parliament Paul Ulenbelt is urging the Dutch legislature, the ‘Tweede Kamer’ (Second Chamber) to join other parliaments in the European Union in defending the right to collective action by employees, including the right to strike. The European Commission is seeking, via a new legislative proposal, to subordinate the freedom to take strike action to the rules of the European single market.
Paul Ulenbelt: ‘The European Commission is undermining the right to strike, despite having been asked to present proposals strengthening this right,’ says Ulenbelt, who is the SP’s spokesman in Parliament on labour issues. ‘The demand for such a reinforcement was great in the wake of rulings in recent years from the European Court of Justice which, to take just two examples, banned strikes in Sweden and Finland against the undermining by firms from Estonia and Latvia of national collective agreements on wages and conditions. But this proposal is taking us out of the frying pan and into the fire, and it must be rejected.’
In the Commission’s proposal it states that the national courts must determine whether a strike represents too great a restraint of trade within the EU. The SP supported the trade unions in their plea for a clear statement that the right to strike would take precedence over the right to free movement of workers and of companies. ‘The Commission’s proposal is a direct assault on the right to strike,’ says Ulenbelt. ‘Within the EU workers are already set one against the other and forced to compete on wages, for instance. The Commission is showing quite clearly that for it the free market is sacred. Only with a powerful protest can we force the Commission to work at last on improving the position of workers. That begins with the right to strike for equal pay for equal work.’
Tuesday is the last day the Dutch national Parliament can announce its official opposition to the proposal. If enough parliaments share this judgement the Commission will be forced, under the terms of the EU treaty, to reconsider the proposal. In the debate on Tuesday evening Ulenbelt will urge those parties with doubts that the right to strike should come before economic freedoms of the European market.
In the 1950 and 1960s, anti-worker rules in the Netherlands restricted the democratic right to strike. However, then, since 1961, there was the European Social Charter; more “liberal” (in the United States sense) than rules in the Netherlands (not than rules, eg, in France then). That charter explicitly supported the right to strike.
The European Social Charter was/is a document of the Council of Europe. A wider, more pro-human rights, organization, than what was then the European Economic Community (now, the European Union); which is more pro-rich humans’ rights than pro-human rights.
So, at least in the Netherlands then, the European level was a sort of brake on one-sided national rules giving bosses dictatorial powers.
Today, however, the European Union level usually forces international pro-bosses Thatcherite rules down national levels’ throats.