EU austerity and dismantling of collective bargaining ‘unlawful’

The European Union's austerity measures and the dismantling of collective bargaining in a number of countries is unlawful, according to a professor at the University of Bremen.

The European Union’s austerity measures and the dismantling of collective bargaining in a number of countries is unlawful, according to a report by professor Andreas Fischer-Lescano of the University of Bremen in Germany.

The report, drawn up for the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), claims that the European Commission and the European Central Bank (because of their involvement in the troika) are breaching the primary law of the EU because the Treaty Of Lisbon (which provides the constitutional basis of the European Union) also includes the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

EU countries which approve of the Memoranda Of Understanding in the Governing Council of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) are bound to Fundamental and Human Rights, argues Professor Fischer-Lescano, who also says the crisis does not render EU law inoperative.

On a national level this approach was objected to by constitutional courts, Fischer-Lescano says, citing Portugal as an example. The European Parliament has to take action.

“Across Europe, trade unions have fought long and hard against austerity, and demand a fundamental political change of course,” says Bernhard Achitz, general secretary of the Austrian Trade Union Federation:

“From drastic cuts in social spending, restrictions on basic trade union rights, such as the actual abolishment of collective agreements, intervention in minimum wages and much more than that, we have enough.”

In order to substantiate the trade union’s argument, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), ÖGB, and the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK) commissioned the legal opinion:

“The results are very clear. The socially unjust and economic unreasonably austerity of the EU must come to an immediate termination. It is bad for the people, bad for Europe and it is also unlawful,” said Achitz.

The report strengthens the claim of European trade unions for a fundamental change of course and a European investment plan, such as the one recently proposed by the ETUC, says Achitz:

“Investment in the welfare state and social services must take the place of short-sighted austerity policies, as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights must no longer remain a paper tiger, it has to eventually be observed by the EU policy.

“Since the financial crisis started in 2008, member states have taken a number of measures to cut public spending and reduce budget deficits. These austerity measures have also targeted social rights and have led to a deregulation of national labour laws as well as the dismantling of collective bargaining systems”, says Veronica Nilson, Confederal Secretary of the ETUC.

“The situation is the worst in the programme countries where the troika has imposed far-reaching measures. They have imposed cuts in minimum wage, interfered with collective bargaining forcing collective bargaining to take place at company level.

“Professor Fischer-Lescano’s study strengthens our argument that we have to legally challenge the austerity measures. Trade unions have already had some success through the collective complaints procedure at the Council of Europe.”

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45 Responses to “EU austerity and dismantling of collective bargaining ‘unlawful’”

  1. LB

    And stealing money from people’s bank accounts to keep politicians in clover is legal.

    Stealing pensions so politicians keep going legal.

    Making it illegal to know how many days labour peers turned up, so we can compare it against their claims – its a state secret.

    Not being prosecuted for fraud for claiming money – all at the public’s expense.

    Swanning round the world dodging tax. Labour prime ministers a speciality.

  2. LB

    The socially unjust and economic unreasonably austerity


    Just which bit of what the state has done to people do you not comprehend?

    The UK government has a true debt of 8,000 bn pounds. That’s a present value. It’s not the sum of future payments. It’s what it owe now and most of it is pensions.

    If you are a civil servant, you are f***cked. They’ve spent all your contributions.

    If you are poor, you are f***cked. They’ve spent all your contributions too.

    That debt is rising at 850 bn a year. Taxes come to 600 bn. You’re f***cked.

    And we’ve numpties like Tony Burke thinking lets spend spend spend more of the poor’s money. After all who cares if they are destitute in their old age eh Tony?

  3. blarg1987

    And back to the origional point, do you think the EU should abolish collective barganining for workers all in the name of econoic growth a yes or no answer is all that is required.

  4. LB

    No.Collective bargaining should be allowed.

    It’s a libertarian argument.

    Equally, employer’s should have the right to be able to ignore collective bargaining.

    Are you going to answer whether employees should have the right to ignore collective bargaining?

  5. LB

    So how about a one number answer from you.

    How much as a present value does the state owe civil servants and the public for pensions?

  6. blarg1987

    Hmm a tricky one, maybe it should work that if employees ignore collective barganing then they should not recieve any benefit from collective barganing i.e. wages keep up with inflation etc.

    Trouble is some employers imply that a specific employee is the best and can rise above everyone else, when multiplied by the whole workforce and only 1 in 10 places available itis a divide and rule tactic which is something I do not agree with.

  7. blarg1987

    Well trouble with your “evidence” is that it just suddenly happened under new labour in the early 00’s whenactually national insurence started in 1949.

    PFI again was somethingbthat started in the mid 90’s but was greatly increased under New Labur which I admit.

    You keep saying the “debt” suddenly happened in the early 21st centuary when some of the policies have happened over decades under consecutive goverments both left and right wing.

    So I find it hard to make a comment or recommendation when the criticism has several holes in it.

  8. LB

    Come on, you asked for a yes no answer for collective bargaining.

    Why are you providing a one number answer to my question?

    What’s PFI got to do with pensions? You’re just trying to get out of answering a question on pensions.

    I know what the answer is for PFI. I know what it is for borrowing.

    It’s the pensions that are the major issue. Currently they are about 7,000 bn on top of the other debts.

    How can you pay that?

    What’s the consequences?

    For the poor its simple, they are f***cked.

  9. LB

    So you want the majority to screw the minority. How socialist.

    So why are you complaining about the current government? They have a majority. Under your logic it’s their time to screw you as you screwed others before you.

  10. LB

    I never said it was under Labour. The only numbers I have however are for Labour. 734 bn a year (each year) for 2005-2010

    GIven total taxes are far lower, its going to f*ck the poor. Really do them in.

    You have to explain how people are going to survive with no welfare state.

    That’s the hard numbers. It shows that the debt is increasing far faster than total taxes.

    So look at the agenda. Balls is on the box going on about saying the rich shall get nothing. Starting with child benefit, Now moving on to winter fuel. We’ve the same angle on bus passes. OK, I guess they won’t. However, if you expect them to willingly pay as part of a social contract, they may well decide that paying and getting nothing isn’t a social contract, its extortion. So much for universal coverage.

    Likewise there’s the other agenda. Pensions are welfare. So do you go down that route? Civil servants on welfare? After all its from the state.

    State pension? Denied the rich even though they paid millions in value. [26K a year workers paid 630K in value]

    It’s going to get very rough and its people like you who’ve taken the money and can’t pay out.

  11. LB

    So how about the flip side. You go on strike and win higher wages. You decide equal pay is trumped by your financial interests, and others don’t get paid.

    Hmmm, however if you lose the strike, the employee decides they don’t want you, or decide to pay you less, or those who worked a bonus.

    Sauce for the goose is good for the gander eh?

  12. blarg1987

    “Hmmm, however if you lose the strike, the employee decides they don’t want you”

    I do not get that statement please can you clarify?

    Well another system we could have is one in Canada where evryone is part of a trade Union whthere they like it or not as everyone benefits from negotions Union do, however I am sure you would complain about that.

  13. blarg1987

    Please clarify how would the majority “screw” the minority?

    And have I “screwed others before”?

    No I do not agree with this goverment a some of its policies, also they won under first past the post, howver under an alternative system like PR and if more people actually exercised their democratic right things may be different.

  14. LB

    It’s a contract. That’s what employment is.

    There are terms and conditions to the contract. Nothing wrong with the employer saying that if you don’t turn up for work because you are on strike that they can decide not to employ you. Seems perfectly right to me.

    Now I can guess the reply. But if its health and safety … Well, that’s simple. The state deals with health and safety. So it enforces. [1]

    [1] However in my experience it doesn’t. Building site next to me has had two crane collapses. Just waiting for the 3rd. HSE won’t act. The wind is too high and blew them down, so that’s OK. [All on tape. Bit awkward that one]

  15. blarg1987

    “I never said it was under Labour. The only numbers I have however are for Labour. 734 bn a year (each year) for 2005-2010”

    So based on your arithmatic it would take a decade for the number you have flagged up.

    You have said it on here on previous posts.

    Also you are forgetting to subtract funded pension schemes including goverment funded pensions as well as private sector pensions so the number is less then the one you just quoted.

  16. LB

    Take the “Human right to a spare bedroom”.

    Take the idea of pay all the tax, get nothing back.

    Endemic in parliament.

    Still waiting for that one number answer from you.

    How much does the state owe for pensions?

    I’ve given you the one word answer, not that you were expecting me to be in favour of CB.

    Now answer mine.

  17. blarg1987

    So you are saying empoyers have the right to rip up and change contracts at any time? And if you say hold on their were no negotiations and take reasonable measures just to be ignored the employer should be allowed to sack you?

    Have you reported the crane collapses to HSE? How do you kow that? Are you sure they are not investigating and getting all the evidence before proceeding with a prosecution?

    Even if the wind speed was very high, the onus is on the company to show they have taken all reasonable measures to manage risk if it is shown reasonable measures were not taken then prosecutions do happen.

    In my experience the HSE has been pretty good at prosecutions on dangerious sites.

  18. LB


    Let me clarify. How much is owed for civil servants and the state pension. They are unfunded schemes.

    The state’s funded schemes have a slightly different problem. They have a net liability too, but htey have assets.

    What’s private scheme’s got to do with the state’s schemes?

    Oh I get it. You’re going to raid private and local government pensioner’s assets to try and pay the state pensions! Rob another group of people.

  19. blarg1987

    No I have just shown your figure of 7000 billion is inaccurate and needs revising as the article link shows that is the total pension bill if you take ALL pensions into account.

    If you have problems with those figures I sugggest you take it upwith the person who wrote that article and not me.

  20. LB

    Nope. There is a contract. Contracts have terms and conditions. You can standardise employment contracts (done already).

    However, if you don’t turn up for work because you don’t wnat to work, I think its entirely reasonable that the employer can decide they don’t want to employ you.

    If you don’t like the conditions or the pay, its very simple. Get another job.

    The employer then has to decide that with no workers prepared to work for them, that they have a problem. Or they don’t. Particularly if they can get migrants to do the jobs. One side effect of letting so many low skilled people in eh. Collective bargaining goes to pot.

  21. LB

    You haven’t. You can’t quote a figure from some time ago, 2010, and not include 3 1/2 years of the growth.

    What’s a private pension got to do with the government’s pensions?

  22. blarg1987

    So everyone who goes on strike does so because they do not want to work?

    I think you find people go on strike as a last resort when changes are imposed without negotiation not because they “don’t want to work”.

  23. blarg1987

    The flaming article was written in May 2012 and if you read it properly it refers to information released in April that year not in 2010!

    So the article is 1 1/2 years old. Not 3 1/2 year old data.

    Private pensions have nothing to do with goverment pensions, but it looks as though you include them in the 7000 billion but the article mentions that the 7000 billion is all pension obligations.

  24. LB

    This figure for the total liability includes private sector liabilities, which are less onerous on future generations because they are all funded. Private sector workplace pension schemes have total liabilities of £1.7 trillion, and this total is likely to decrease over time as so many private sector pension schemes have been closed to new entrants and stopped allowing further accrual by existing members. There is an additional £0.4 trillion worth of liabilities for individual private pensions, but these are also fully funded.


    Try reading the article. These are funded. ie. Liabilities = Assets. No issue.

    The state’s pensions (CS and SP) are unfunded. No assets.

    In calculating these figures, the ONS used a discount rate of 3% as mandated by Eurostat, the European statistics body.


    Ho hum. 3% growth rate on assets is the assumptions. Assets are zero. The usual bollox I’m afraid. It’s called basis risk, and its a clear sign of a fraud. They could assume they invested in Google stock, its got a higher return. With assets of zero, it still doesn’t affect the answer.

    What they are doing is applying an asset rate to the liabilities. They are saying, look its a large answer but we made is smaller by assuming that the payouts shrink by 3% per year.

    Given the payouts are the max of (inflation, 2.5%, wage inflation), the rate is positive not negative. They are under estimating by 5.5% per year.


    When is a liability not really a liability?

    When they can’t pay it. That’s what they can’t quite bring themselves to say. They are going to f*ck the poor.

  25. LB

    Yep. And the solution is to get another job and screw the company that way.

  26. blarg1987

    Well that is a very narrow minded view. I think you will find strikes are a last resort in most disputes when mediation and negotiation has failed to resolve the dispute.

    They sending a warning to employers of the value of staff i.e. you loose a days busness this is what it is worth etc.

    Bare in mind almost all the employment securities you have were the result of unions in the past.

  27. LB

    They sending a warning to employers of the value of staff i.e. you loose a days busness this is what it is worth etc.


    Correct. I agree.

    Why do you then disagree that when the employer makes the calculation that they think that member of staff is not of value and is damaging the business, that you want to force the employer to carry on employing them?

    It works both ways.

  28. blarg1987

    so 1.7 + 0.4 = 2.1 trillion, 7 trillion (as mentioned as all liabilities both public and private) – 2.1 trillion = 5.9 trillion.

    From this you have to take away funded public sector schemes then the nubers do drop. So the figure is not 7 trillion as you have previously stated.

  29. blarg1987

    Because to sack people simply because they are in a Union is unfair dismissal and you go down the slippery slope of sacking people becasue you want to.

    Should employers have the right to sack you on a whim because they consider you “damaging” to their buisness simply because you have concerns with a senior manager on say a new policy? I think the answer is no.

  30. blarg1987

    Correction 4.9 trillion.

  31. LB

    1. You haven’t included the increase post 2010. It was rising at 734 bn a year.

    2. How can you take away the funded schemes? Lets see. Lets not pay the Local Government people their pension because the workers from the home office have to have their pensions. How’s that going to work.

    3. The number doesn’t include what’s owed to the LGA employees. They have a funded scheme (with a 50% deficit). The civil service is unfunded.

    It’s over 7 trillion. Is Hobb’s original paper if you want to check it.

    However from the IF


    The interesting question is whether the government can get out of any of these promises if it doesn’t think it can afford to honour all of them. If it comes down to competition for limited resources, which promises are more binding – those it’s made to general citizens, or its own employees? To put it bluntly, who gets first dibs on the money?


    So who gets the cash?

    The rich who paid for it all get nowt. Then they will probably decide not to play the game.

    The civil service? Hmm, we will pay you the income which if funded would cost millions.

    The poor? Oh dear even by shafting the first two groups, we can’t pay them.

    Future taxpayers? Er, you have to pay the pensions, and the retirees health care costs, but you can’t have health insurance from the state.

  32. LB

    I never said that they were sacked for membership of a union. Everyone has the right in my book to associate with whoever they want to.

    Nope, the employer should have the right to break the contract if they employee breaks the contract. It works both ways.

  33. LB

    So back to the pensions. What should happen to politicians if they break a contract?

  34. blarg1987

    Striking is not a breach of contract, but there again should the empoyee have the right to break the contracty if the emplooyer does? If the answer is yes then I think you will find that is how stirking generally occurs.

  35. blerg1987

    How is pensions related to politicians breaking contraacts?

    And what contracts are you referring to is it contracts goverment make with private companies? Or other types?

  36. blarg1987

    Well as i said before please tajke your query up with the person who wrote the origiona article not me.

    But one final point even your article admits there are different variations on how numbers can be calculated and their is no definitive number as there are various factors that can not be calculated.

    Even Fullfacts said this as well but you accused them of being a left wing rag, but no doubt you have written to them and asked them to correct their data in your opinion or did you not?

  37. Henry Tinsley

    It’s ok. LB’s figures are often inaccurate.

  38. LB

    First the union view. Is a strike a breach of contract?

    Strike action is a breach of contract, but it is not always clear whether industrial action short of a strike is a breach of contract.

    The government view of the law

    You have the right to take industrial action and you can’t be legally forced to stay at, or go back to, work (unless a ballot wasn’t organised properly).

    If you take industrial action, you’ll probably have broken (be ‘in breach of’) your employment contract and your employer:

    is unlikely to pay for the work you didn’t do when you took industrial action

    can sue you for breaking your contract (this doesn’t happen often)


    So, breach of contract. Pretty clear.

  39. LB

    At least an admonition from you that using private sector assets (pensions) to reduce the liabilities is wrong. I never did include them, but you raised them as a distraction.

    The 7,000 bn is the debt. Even that is going to be an underestimate because of the mismatch between the growth in assets – zero, and the rate they have assumed 3%, compared to the growth in liabilities of the triple lock.

    Deliberate as the article you linked too points out, in order to make the number smaller. That’s why the full facts site is wrong too, and you’ve pointed it out. I’ve been saying the same for a long time.

    So come on. Just as you wanted a one word answer and I supplied it, can’t you answer the one number question.

    How much does the state owe for civil service and state pensions that have already accrued?

    Can’t be hard can it?

  40. blarg1987

    So if an employer rips up your contract and imposes new terms and conditions on you are they in breach of contract?

    And if so how would you take action against them can you actually sue? if not then what options remain?

    So should employees have the right to break the contracty if employers do yes or no?

  41. blarg1987

    I do not know how uch or whether there is a debt or not o vil service pensions as all the figures released by all the sources 9yours included) admit that there are many factors that are involved in working costs out so it is impossible to give an exact figure.

    I did not say that the fullfacts figure was wrong, i just asked have you written to them and told them their figures are rng as you believe they are and have they amended it accordingly?

    Take your answer is no, in which case why not?

  42. LB

    So if an employer rips up your contract and imposes new terms and conditions on you are they in breach of contract?


    Yep. However, if your contract says there is 1 months notice, then they can give you a months notice of the change. You are then free to say that you don’t want the new contract they are offering, and you can walk away.

    It’s a contract. Both sides have to agree. That’s a long established part of contract law.

    So for example, if you have a 3 month notice period, and they change the contract with immediate effect, they are in breech of contract, and you sue.

    Similarly, in my books, if your contract says you have to give notice of time off, and you don’t, for example for a strike, then you are in breech of contract there.

    Which bit of contract law are you struggling with?

  43. blarg1987

    Well Unions do gibve notice of a strike generally so they are in the law and not Skiving work so you can;t legally sack them.

    As you said both sides have to agree so if there is no agreement, then an employer still imposes changes is this not a breah as you have just said both sides have to agree.

  44. LB

    I have done. They ignored it.

    I raised the questions that are in the document you linked to

    This one

    as well as this one

    Both point to the extent of the true debt and more frightenly the increase each year. Compare that to total taxes and even you can work out what’s going to happen.

    That’s apocalyptic for the poor.

  45. LB

    Well, they can. See Falkirk for a good example. They struck. Company said, ok, you’re fired. We’re closing the place down. All legal.

    It’s back to the whole point about contracts. Both sides have to agree.

    The best way of controlling the relationship is to make it much more attractive to set up business in the UK, and to control migration at the low end.

    End result, more business is done here. More people are employed and unemployment goes down. That creates alternative jobs so you can walk when a company doesn’t treat it staff right.

    So far, Labour didn’t do a thing. The Condems aren’t either. And most of that boils down to a state debt that totals over 8,000 bn.

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