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Government has turned its back on workers – McDonald

25 September, 2009

Speaking today at a press conference with Irish Regional Secretary of the Unite Trade Union Jimmy Kelly, Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald said that the “Lisbon Treaty was a bad deal for workers and would drive down wages across the EU.” She said that the government’s non-legally binding declaration on workers’ rights was worse than useless and had as much credibility as an election promise the week before polling.

Ms. McDonald said:

“Over the last few years there has been a deeply worrying trend within European Commission proposals to hollow out hard won gains on workers wages and conditions. A series of highly controversial rulings by the European Court of Justice known as the Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg judgements have made the situation even worse.

“Concerns about the driving down of pay and conditions were central to the no vote in the first Lisbon referendum but the government has completely failed to address them. Their non-legally binding declaration is worse than useless. It has as much credibility as an election promise the week before polling, laced with false sincerity and destined to be forgotten the moment the ballot boxes are closed.

“Neither the government nor EU leaders have any intention of altering the current direction of EU policy and the European Court of Justice both of which fundamentally undermine the pay and conditions of workers. The Lisbon Treaty is clear – it contains specific provisions that will strengthen the hand of the European Commission in its anti-worker drive and compel the European Court of Justice to make more anti-worker judgements in the future.

“The Lisbon treaty is a bad deal for workers and will result in further and stronger downward pressure on wages across the EU if ratified and implemented. On October 2 stand up for workers rights, and for decent pay, by voting No to the Lisbon Treaty.’ ENDS

Commenting on today’s opinion poll in the Irish Times Ms. McDonald said:

“With a week to go people are starting to look at the facts and the real implications of this Treaty. It is telling that the yes side have failed to put forward even one reason to support the treaty and instead are trying to frighten people. It is no surprise that those who are suffering most as a result of government and EU policy are those who are most strongly against this Treaty. The fact is that this is a bad deal for Ireland and it should be rejected.” ENDS

Note to editor:

The 2007 Laval case upheld the right of a Latvian company operating in Sweden to pay Latvian workers to do the job at Latvian rates rather than compelling them to pay agreed Swedish rates. This ruling undermines the viability of collective wage agreements that pay above a statutory minimum wage.

The 2008 Rueffert upheld the right of a Polish company to pay less than 50% of the agreed wage rate for construction work in a local government contract. This ruling effectively prevents public authorities from putting conditions respecting collective wage agreements in tenders for public contracts.

The Lisbon Treaty Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition provides the EU with a stronger mandate to remove what it calls "distortions" to the operation of the “internal market” In the Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg the removal of so called “distortions” to competition was central to the determinations European Court of Justice judgements . In each case, the rights of employers to free and undistorted competition overruled the rights fo workers and the applicability of local wage agreements.

‘The inclusion of the “freedom to conduct a business” in Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights will also undermine any future application of the “right to collective bargaining” contained in Article 28 of the Charter should a future Irish government legislate for such a right.

‘The Lisbon Treaty protcol will not only enshrine the primacy of so called free and undistorted competition, but will empower the Commission and compel the Court to implement more policies and make more judgements that will actively undermine the wages, terms, confitions and rights of workers.

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