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5 June 2008 Edition

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Lisbon fails workers and should be rejected

  • This news feature is funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) 


MEP Mary Lou McDonald has appealed to workers and trade unionists to reject the Lisbon Treaty because it fails to provide essential protections for workers’ rights.
The Dublin MEP was speaking at a media briefing in the Irish capital last week with fellow MEP Bairbre de Brún; Dublin City Councillor Larry O’Toole, a leading trade union activist in the services sector; and Gerry Adams MP.
McDonald welcomed the progressive social legislation that has had its origins in the EU and the positive role the EU has played in terms of the struggle to improve workers’ rights but this should not make workers feel obliged to vote for Lisbon.
“It is the present and future direction of the EU that counts. Unfortun-ately, 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 judgments 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.”
Expressing disappointment 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, the former trade union research specialist said that exaggerated claims in relation to the charter will be exposed when Irish workers try to vindicate their supposed new rights under this charter.
“The Charter of Fundamental Rights does not guarantee the right to strike,” she said. “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.


Why Lisbon is a bad deal for workers

  • It doesn’t block the gaps in the protection of workers’ rights exposed by recent judgments by the European Court of Justice;
  • It 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 give the European Commission 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 and let service providers  operate outside the laws of the country where the service is being provided, allowing them to accelerate the ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of pay and conditions.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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