date: 11 December 2007
Today the European Court of Justice issued its judgement in the Viking Case.
Responding to the judgement, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
'We welcome the recognition by the European Court of Justice that the right to take collective action, including the right to strike, is a fundamental right which forms an integral part of the general principles of Community law.
'The Court has indicated that the right to take industrial action for the protection of workers is a legitimate interest which can justify restrictions on the fundamental freedom of establishment.
'The TUC will carefully examine the detail of the judgement, and whether it has any implications for unions' right to organise industrial action and for good industrial relations in the UK and across Europe. We will follow the progress of the case as it returns to the UK Court of Appeal.'
The Viking case cases involve the relationship between the rules on free movement and the fundamental rights of workers to bargain collectively and to take collective action, including strike action and industrial action
Full name of case: International Transport Workers' Federation and Finnish Seamen's Union v Viking Line Abp.
The Viking case involves the relationship between the rules on free movement and the fundamental rights of workers to bargain collectively and to take collective action, including strike action and industrial action.
Viking Line Abp, a Finnish company, operates the Rosella, a ferry that runs between Helsinki in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia. The Rosella operates under a Finnish flag i.e. is registered in Finland and has a mixed but predominantly Finnish crew who benefit from a collective agreement negotiated by the Finnish Seamen's Union (FSU).
Viking decided to re-flag the Rosella on the Helsinki -Tallinn route by registering it as an Estonian ship. The re-flagging would allow Viking to replace the crew with Estonian seafarers, and to negotiate cheaper terms and conditions of employment with an Estonian trade union.
With the support of the International Transport Federation (ITF), the Finnish Seamen's Union (FSU) responded by threatening to take industrial action, a right that is protected by Article 13 of the Finnish Constitution.
Viking brought proceedings in the High Court in London, arguing that its rights to freedom of establishment under EC law were infringed by the industrial action. The Court of Appeal referred questions to the European Court of Justice. Following the ECJ judgement the case will return to the Court of Appeal, which must apply the guidance provided by the ECJ to the facts of the case.
Freedom of establishment under EU law involves the right for companies to establish themselves and operate in any member states across the EU.
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