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Unite trade union say European Court judgement could derail the London Olympics

A judgement made today by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could mean that London’s Olympics will either be built on poverty wages or not at all as industrial unrest spreads, say Unite, the UK’s largest trade union.

Unite is warning that the ECJs decision that a Polish subcontractor operating in Germany can lawfully pay construction workers less than half the German construction industry’s agreed wage could have a devastating affect on the building of London’s Olympic infrastructure.

The UK’s largest trade union say the ECJs judgement could mean that foreign companies employing people in the UK can ignore employee’s collective agreements and legally pay workers below agreed wage levels.

Today’s ECJ judgement on the Dirk Rüffert v. Land Niedersachsen case concerned a Polish subcontractor of the company Objekt und Bauregie which paid employees working on a prison building site only 46.5% of the prescribed industry minimum wage. The ECJ decision today found in favour of the company on the grounds of freedom of movement and the provision of services across the European Union.

Unite is now calling for the powers of the ECJ to be curbed to allow national governments and national courts to have sovereignty on collective agreements and collective action.

Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary of Unite trade union, said:"The European Court of Justice has made a number of decisions that we believe threaten EU countries with being forced to use cheaper agency labour, the undercutting our industry agreements and the ability of trade unions to defend them. Today’s judgement is by far the most damaging.

"This decision effectively means that foreign companies working here in the UK, or in any other European country, can flout domestic laws and collective agreements with regard to pay. This is a recipe for disaster and, if applied here in the UK, will cause massive industrial unrest and threaten the delivery of major infrastructure projects including the Olympics site.

"We are calling on the UK government and the European Parliament to act to ensure that minimum industry standards are upheld and we want the role of the ECJ, which has greater powers with regard to these vital issues, to be revisited."

3 April 2008

More at: Unite

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