Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Lisbon Treaty Fails Workers and Should Be Rejected

30 May, 2008


Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald called on workers and trade unionists to reject the Lisbon Treaty on the basis that it fails to provide essential protections for workers rights. Ms. Donald said that only following negotiations that redressed these shortcomings could the treaty be in any way acceptable to Irish workers. Ms McDonald was joined at the press conference by party President Gerry Adams MLA, Bairbre de Brun MEP and Dublin Cllr. Larry O'Toole.

Ms. McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin does not dispute the fact that in the past much progressive social legislation has had its origins in the EU. The EU has played a positive role in terms of the struggle to improve workers' rights.

"However while we acknowledge the positive measures in terms of workers rights that have come from Europe in the past, workers should not feel compelled to vote for this Treaty out of gratitude for past action. It is the present and future direction of the EU that counts. Unfortunately, in the last decade these gains have been undermined by developments that have sought to sacrifice a progressive social agenda in favour of a narrowly defined focus on competitiveness. We have seen this in the judgements in the Laval, Viking and Ruffert cases.

"There is no question but that the protection of workers' rights to prevent displacement of workers in 'old' Europe and to prevent the exploitation of workers from 'new' Europe, as well as to prevent further downward pressure on wages, is the greatest challenge facing us. How this issue would not be at the heart of any 'reform' of the EU is inexplicable. It is one of a number of key reasons why the Treaty must be sent back for renegotiation. The protection of workers' rights and public services should be at the heart of what the EU is about. Unfortunately this is not the case at present and this is not the direction in which the Lisbon Treaty takes the EU.

"Sinn Féin is disappointed that a number of senior trade unionists continue to regard the Charter of Rights as the basis on which workers should support the Lisbon Treaty. Exaggerated claims in relation to the Charter will be exposed if and when Irish workers seek to vindicate their supposed new rights under this Charter. The Charter of Fundamental Rights does not guarantee the right to strike. Article 28 of the Charter appended to the Lisbon Treaty states that workers have the right to collective bargaining and to take strike action only "in accordance with national laws and practices". This means that this provision is meaningless if these rights are not protected in the Irish Constitution.

"The key reasons why this Treaty is a bad deal for workers include:

- It fails to block the gaps in the protection of workers rights exposed by the recent ECJ judgements and fails to include specific measures to prevent the displacement and exploitation of workers.

- It gives the EU too much power and reduces our ability to stop decisions that are not in Ireland's interest, while also cutting our voting strength on the Council of Ministers by more than half and ending our automatic right to a Commissioner.

- The Treaty Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition provides the EU with a mandate to remove "distortions" to service provision - which are likely to include important protective workers' rights regulations.

- Article 16 and 188 will provide the European Commission with the tools to progressively open up areas of European public services such as health and education to both internal market competition and international trade.

- The Lisbon Treaty hands powers to the EU to complete the internal market in services as envisaged under the widely opposed Services' Directive. It would allow service providers to operate outside the laws of the country where the service is being provided, allowing them to further race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions.

"What Sinn Féin says to Trade Unionists is: as you go to cast your vote on the 12 June you must have no illusions - if we vote in favour of this Treaty we will face a future of greater liberalization, more competition and privatization, and fewer rights for workers. People should have no fear of rejecting this Treaty and sending it back for renegotiation. The Lisbon Treaty must be rejected." ENDS

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