Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Charter of Fundamental Rights does not advance workers' rights or human rights - Doherty

4 June, 2008


Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty speaking during a Seanad debate on the Charter of Fundamental rights and the Lisbon Treaty said:

"Sinn Féin strongly supports any measures that enhance the protection and promotion of human rights and equality at home, in the EU and in the wider world.

"However, the idea that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is somehow a major step forward in human rights is an illusion. Even its advocates acknowledge that it is little more than a restatement of existing human rights law. In its analysis of the Charter the Institute for European Affairs argues that it 'does not create any new rights' and that the social and economic rights in the Charter 'do not give rise to direct claims for positive action'.

"The Charter is already part of the jurisprudence of the European Union and is regularly cited by the European Court of Justice in making its determinations on cases where the Charter has relevance. Including the charter in the Lisbon Treaty will not add to this fact in any way.

"Some advocates of the Treaty have gone as far as suggesting that the inclusion of the Charter in the Treaty will prevent future European Court of Justice decisions such as the controversial Laval judgement. Nothing could be further from the truth. In making its determination in the Laval case, the ECJ explicitly recognised the right to collective bargaining in the Charter. However this did not prevent the ECJ from deciding that it was legal for the Latvian company to undercut the agreed wages to the Swedish workers in question.

"Again contrary to claims by advocates of the Lisbon Treaty there are no rights contained in the text that are not already provided for by either the Irish Constitution or the European Convention of Human Rights.

"Most importantly the application of the charter is subject to national laws and customs and the objectives and values of the European Union. This point is important as it means that access to the rights contained in the charter is reliant on the existence of relevant member state legislation.

"The decision by SIPTU to withhold support for the Lisbon Treaty until the government commits to providing new domestic legislation securing and strengthening the right to collective bargaining is a clear demonstration that the Charter does not provide any new protection in the field of workers rights - specifically with regard to the right to collective bargaining. Contrary to the claims made by some trade unionists and politicians, SIPTU, UNITE and the TEEU are clear in their understanding of the limitations of the Charter and are demanding greater domestic protection, without which the Charter would be worthless.

"Sinn Féin has a strong record in advocating and supporting human rights, at home and in the European Parliament. Indeed we are not opposed to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, although would have preferred a much stronger and clearer instrument.

"However the suggestion that the Charter represents some great advance in rights protections at an EU level is false. It is more likely that the inclusion of the Charter in the Lisbon Treaty is a cynical exercise aimed at assisting some politicians and trade unionists sell what is in all other respects a bad deal for Ireland.

"The Lisbon Treaty can and must be re-negotiated to get a better deal. The first step is to vote no on June 12th and give the Irish government the strongest possible mandate at any new negotiations." ENDS

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