Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The fifth freedom...

As all progressives should be aware, a fight is sailing up in the European Court. The fight is between a Latvian company (Laval) and two Swedish blue-collar trade unions (electricians and construction builders). The basic question is how the Swedish model, with collective bargaining in the labor market, goes together with the internal market of the EU. To cut it short, should workers of a different nationality be allowed to dump wages when they work in Sweden?

From my point of view, it is obvious that identical work should be rewarded with roughly the same wages. Why should workers with a different passport get lower pay? The whole idea with a trade union is that no one accepts a lower wage than the others – regardless of passport or what football team you support.

Today, the secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation, John Monks, and the vice president of the Swedish blue collar union LO, Erland Olauson, had a joint press conference in Brussels. The ETUC affirmed its support of the Swedish position, and the decision to support LO was taken unanimously in the ETUC-board. Sometimes some people tend to indicate that a conflict between trade unions in the East and West of the EU exists over this issue. But as I said, the decision was unanimously, and LO has an agreement with its Latvian counterparts. And in Estonia the trade union has encouraged its government to support Sweden.

Conclusion? Sweden should not be forced to change the rules of its labor market just because of the EU, even though adjustments always are necessary when you decide to have a union together. And the workers of the EU will and should travel and work in different countries, but when they do so the laws and wages of the country they work in should be applied. Europe needs more mobility and vibrant growth, but also good working conditions and decent wages, and I tend to think those things go hand in hand.

It is 2006, in Sweden the political right is about to fight an election campaign with a promise to weaken trade unions and lower wages. Therefore I am happy there is still power in the union - increasingly so also on the European level.
(Picture of John Monks).


Blogger Rémi Bazillier said...

Bolkenstein before Bolkenstein...
Very good decision of ETUC. Hope it will have consequences on the decision of the European Court.

1/2/06 09:08  
Blogger Eric Sundström said...

Good to hear from you Rémi, and that sure was a good decision by the ETUC. I am working on a longer text for the ECOSY newsletter, I will publish it here on my blog as well.

6/2/06 17:45  

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