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ISSUE 48 page 6

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New law for Swedish unions after Laval case

There have been thousands of words written on the Vaxholm, or Laval, case in which a Latvian building firm was boycotted by Swedish unions because it refused to sign an agreement guaranteeing Swedish pay rates and conditions for its Latvian workers. This most critical of the four ECJ decisions to recently go against European trade unions now has to be implemented in Swedish law. We examine the government’s solution and its chance of success.

 FOLLOWING THE JUDGMENT OF THE European Court of Justice there was concern that the 'Nordic' system of industrial relations, usually praised by unions, would be threatened. The aim of the Swedish authorities was to protect this while changing national law to comply with the ruling. One problem throughout was that there is no legal minimum wage in Sweden. All questions of pay and conditions are regulated by collective agreement. The implementation of the Posted Workers Directive in the country did not allow it to cover these deals and so any foreign employer not subscribing to one could, in theory, pay whatever they liked. The government has rejected the idea of bringing in a minimum wage in favour of .
Vaxholm school gate
Disputes are to be settled by the labour court.
Both sides of industry were were critical of the new proposal. Employers' organisations are in favour of a legal minimum wage and maintain that the compromise will not satisfy EU law. Trade union confederations believe that loopholes will still exist allowing unscrupulous employers to 'wage-dump', and are worried about suggestions that night work and breaks will be excluded from the new law. However the Swedish government maintains 'we have found a solution that combines the Swedish labour market model with existing Community law in a well-balanced way'. The new legislation will apply from April next year

The gate of the school near Stockholm where it all started

central industry-wide agreements. These may only regulate certain subjects such as pay, hours and holidays and unions can only take action against employers who don't fulfil, at least, their requirements. Similarly an employer who wants to stop industrial action against them must prove that they are abiding by the appropriate central agreement.



Recent rulings from the European Court of Justice

Reclaim leave if you’re sick on holiday
Chemical companies lose on monomers
Following its decision on accruing annual leave when you’re sick, (see issue 46), the ECJ has now ruled on the opposite situation. A Mr. Pereda, who was a driver for a firm in Madrid, was allocated annual leave from 16th July to 14th August but, following an accident at work on 3rd July, was on sick leave until 13th August. Having missed his holiday he applied for a new period in November and December but this was refused by the company. The Spanish court referred Mr.Pereda’s claim to the ECJ who emphasised that sick leave and annual leave had different purposes. Although Member States could pass laws denying the right to carry over leave, if workers were denied the opportunity to take it in the appropriate leave year they must be able to reschedule it for the next one. The ruling is likely to have an effect on the UK regulations which currently only allow employers to permit carry-over of leave over and above a four week minimum which must be taken in the current year.
In issue 46 we reported the action brought at the High Court in London by several chemical firms to exempt certain substances known as monomers from the new EU REACH regulations. Now the ECJ has confirmed that   dangerous chemicals such as vinyl chloride and styrene must be registered even if used in amounts of less than one tonne per annum. Monomers are commonly bound together with other substances to make plastics but the court confirmed that, even in this state, they are included.

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