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Can Governments Control Mass Layoffs by Employers? Economic Freedoms vs Labour Rights in Case C-201/15 AGET Iraklis

  • Menelaos Markakis
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Postdoctoral Researcher, EURO-CEFG, Erasmus University Rotterdam. I have benefited from comments from Paul Craig, Anastasia Karatzia, Steve Peers and two anonymous reviewers. The usual disclaimer applies.

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1 ECJ 21 December 2016, Case C-201/15, Anonymi Geniki Etairia Tsimenton Iraklis (AGET Iraklis) v Ypourgos Ergasias, Koinonikis Asfalisis kai Koinonikis Allilengyis.

2 Opinion of AG Wahl in ECJ 9 June 2016, Case C-201/15, AGET Iraklis.

3 There are discussions between Greece and its creditors as to whether this threshold should be raised from 5% to 10%.

4 Council Directive 98/59/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to collective redundancies [1998] OJ L225/16.

5 ECJ 15 February 2007, Case C-270/05, Athinaïki Chartopoïïa AE v L. Panagiotidis, para. 37.

6 See generally Njoya, W., ‘The EU Framework of Information and Consultation: Implications for Trade Unions and Industrial Democracy’, in A. Bogg et al. (eds.), Research Handbook on EU Labour Law (Edward Elgar 2016) p. 363 .

7 Greek Council of State (Fourth Chamber) Decision No 1254/2015.

8 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, para. 34.

9 Ibid., paras. 27-33.

10 Ibid., para. 35.

11 Ibid., para. 38.

12 Ibid., para. 43.

13 Ibid., para. 55.

14 Ibid., para. 56.

15 Ibid., para. 57.

16 Ibid., paras. 62-69.

17 ECJ 26 February 2013, Case C-617/10, Åklagaren v Hans Åkerberg Fransson, paras. 23-33.

18 ECJ 13 June 2017, Case C-258/14, Eugenia Florescu v Casa Judeţeană de Pensii Sibiu, paras. 43-48 (concerning a Romanian law whose adoption was not required by the relevant Memorandum of Understanding but nevertheless pursued the objectives set out in the Memorandum of Understanding and relevant EU secondary law).

19 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, paras. 73-75.

20 Ibid., paras. 76-78.

21 Ibid., para. 81.

22 Ibid., para. 83.

23 Ibid., para. 85.

24 Ibid., para. 86.

25 ECJ 18 July 2013, Case C-426/11, Mark Alemo-Herron and Others v Parkwood Leisure Ltd.

26 Council Directive 2001/23/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses [2001] OJ L82/16.

27 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, para. 87.

28 Ibid., para. 88.

29 Ibid., para. 90.

30 Ibid., para. 92.

31 Ibid., para. 92.

32 Ibid., para. 93.

33 Ibid., para. 93.

34 Ibid., para. 94.

35 Ibid., para. 72.

36 Ibid., para. 99.

37 Ibid., para. 100.

38 Ibid., para. 100.

39 Ibid., para. 101.

40 Ibid., para. 101.

41 Ibid., paras. 102-104.

42 Ibid., para. 106.

43 Ibid., para. 107.

44 Ibid., para. 108.

45 See most recently in this journal, Garben, S., ‘The Constitutional (Im)balance between “the Market” and “the Social” in the European Union’, 13 EuConst (2017) p. 23 ; Schiek, D., ‘Towards More Resilience for Social Europe – the Constitutionally Conditioned Internal Market’, 13 EuConst (2017).

46 Amongst the copious literature, see particularly Azoulai, L., ‘The Court of Justice and the Social Market Economy: The Emergence of an Ideal and the Conditions for its Realisation’, 45 CMLR (2008) p. 1335 ; Barnard, C., EU Employment Law, 4th edn (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 200-250 ; Davies, A., ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? The Viking and Laval Cases in the ECJ’, 37 Industrial Law Journal (2008) p. 126 ; Joerges, C. and Rödl, F., ‘Informal Politics, Formalised Law and the “Social Deficit” of European Integration: Reflections after the Judgments of the ECJ in Viking and Laval’, 15 ELJ (2009) p. 1 ; Kilpatrick, C., ‘Laval’s Regulatory Conundrum: Collective Standard-setting and the Court’s New Approach to Posted Workers’, 34 ELRev (2009) p. 844 ; Malmberg, J. and Sigeman, T., ‘Industrial Actions and EU Economic Freedoms: The Autonomous Collective Bargaining Model Curtailed by the European Court of Justice’, 45 CMLR (2008) p. 1115 ; Nic Shuibhne, N., ‘Settling Dust? Reflections on the Judgments in Viking and Laval ’, 21 European Business Law Review (2010) p. 681 ; Prechal, S. and de Vries, S., ‘Seamless Web of Judicial Protection in the Internal Market’, 34 ELRev (2009) p. 5 ; Reich, N., ‘Free Movement v. Social Rights in an Enlarged Union’, 9 German Law Journal (2008) p. 125 ; Syrpis, P. and Novitz, T., ‘Economic and Social Rights in Conflict: Political and Judicial Approaches to their Reconciliation’, 33 ELRev (2008) p. 411 .

47 Barnard, C., ‘The Calm after the Storm: Time to Reflect on EU (Labour) Law Scholarship Following the Decisions in Viking and Laval’, in Bogg et al. (eds.), supra n. 6, p. 337 .

48 Freedland, M. and Prassl, J., ‘ Viking, Laval and Beyond: An Introduction’, in M. Freedland and J. Prassl (eds.), Viking, Laval and Beyond (Hart Publishing 2014) p. 1 at p. 15.

49 Ibid., p. 15.

50 Ibid., p. 15.

51 Ibid., p. 15-17.

52 Ibid., p. 17-19.

53 Weatherill, S. Viking and Laval: The EU Internal Market Perspective’, in Freedland and Prassl (eds.), supra n. 48, p. 23 at p. 23.

54 Ibid., p. 35.

55 Ibid., p. 37.

56 Ibid., p. 39.

57 V. Skouris, ‘Οι οικονομικές ελευθερίες και τα κοινωνικά δικαιώματα κατά τη νομολογία του Δικαστηρίου των Ευρωπαϊκών Κοινοτήτων’, in Ελληνική Εταιρεία Δικαίου της Εργασίας και της Κοινωνικής Ασφαλίσεως, Οικονομικές ελευθερίες, κοινωνικά δικαιώματα & η απαγόρευση των διακρίσεων στο δίκαιο της Ε.Ε. [Economic Freedoms, Social Rights and the Prohibition of Discrimination in the Law of the EU] (Εκδόσεις Σάκκουλα Αθήνα-Θεσσαλονίκη 2010) p. 3 at p. 9. German-speaking lawyers may also read Skouris, V., ‘Das Verhältnis der Grundfreiheiten zu den Gemeinschaftsgrundrechten’, Recht der Arbeit-Beil (2009) p. 25 .

58 Skouris (2010), supra n. 57, p. 11.

59 Ibid., p. 14.

60 Ibid., p. 15; Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services [1997] OJ L18/1.

61 Skouris (2010), supra n. 57, p. 15-17. Cf. Davies, A.C.L., Bogg, A. and Costello, C., ‘The Role of the Court of Justice in Labour Law’, in Bogg et al. (eds.), supra n. 6, p. 114 at p. 128-133.

62 Skouris (2010), supra n. 57, p. 16; ECJ 12 June 2003, Case C-112/00, Eugen Schmidberger, Internationale Transporte und Planzüge v Republik Österreich; ECJ 14 October 2004, Case C-36/02, Omega Spielhallen- und Automatenaufstellungs-GmbH v Oberbürgermeisterin der Bundesstadt Bonn.

63 ECJ 3 April 2008, Case C-346/06, Dirk Rüffert v Land Niedersachsen.

64 ECJ 19 June 2008, Case C-319/06, Commission of the European Communities v Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

65 Skouris (2010), supra n. 57, p. 16.

66 ECJ 25 July 1991, Case C-76/90, Manfred Säger v Dennemeyer & Co. Ltd, para. 12.

67 Barnard, supra n. 46, p. 201. See further Snell, J., ‘The Notion of Market Access: A Concept or a Slogan?’, 47 CMLR (2010) p. 437 ; Barnard, C. and Deakin, S., ‘Market Access and Regulatory Competition’, in C. Barnard and J. Scott (eds.), The Legal Foundations of the Single Market: Unpacking the Premises (Hart Publishing 2002); Davies, G., ‘Understanding Market Access: Exploring the Economic Rationality of Different Conceptions of Free Movement Law’, 11 German Law Journal (2010) p. 673 ; Spaventa, E., ‘From Gebhard to Carpenter: Towards a (Non-)Economic European Constitution’, 41 CMLR (2004) p. 743 .

68 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, paras. 99-100.

69 ECJ 18 December 2007, Case C-341/05, Laval, paras. 36 and 110.

70 Ibid., para. 100.

71 Barnard, supra n. 46, p. 226 fn 217, citing Art. 5(4) Directive 2008/104/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on temporary agency work [2008] OJ L327/9 and EFTA Court 23 January 2012, Case E-2/11, STX Norway Offshore AS m.fl. v Staten v/ Tariffnemnda, paras. 72-73.

72 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, paras. 81 and 93.

73 Opinion of AG Wahl in AGET Iraklis, supra n. 2, para. 71.

74 See generally Craig, P., ‘Formal and Substantive Conceptions of the Rule of Law: An Analytical Framework’, 12 Public Law (1997) p. 467 .

75 Opinion of AG Wahl in AGET Iraklis, supra n. 2, para. 76.

77 Opinion of AG Wahl in AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, fn. 25.

78 On Art. 16 ECFR, see generally Braibant, G., La Charte des droits fondamentaux de l’Union européen (Seuil 2001); Everson, M. and Correia Gonçalves, R., ‘Freedom to Conduct a Business’, in S. Peers, et al. (eds.), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: A Commentary (Hart Publishing 2014) p. 437 ; Oliver, P., The Fundamental Rights of Companies (Hart Publishing 2015); Usai, A., ‘The Freedom to Conduct a Business in the EU, Its Limitations and Its Role in the European Legal Order: A New Engine for Deeper and Stronger Economic, Social and Political Integration’, 14 German Law Journal (2010) p. 1867 .

79 FRA, Freedom to Conduct a Business: Exploring the Dimensions of a Fundamental Right, August 2015, <>, visited 5 October 2017, p. 7-9.

80 Ibid., p. 9.

81 Ibid., p. 12.

82 Ibid., p. 12.

83 Ibid., p. 12 and 21.

84 Ibid., p. 23.

85 Ibid., p.11.

86 Ibid., p. 10.

87 ECJ 18 July 2013, Case C-426/11, Mark Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure Ltd. See Prassl, J., ‘Freedom of Contract as a General Principle of EU Law? Transfers of Undertakings and the Protection of Employer Rights in EU Labour Law’, 42 Industrial Law Journal (2013) p. 434 ; Weatherill, S., ‘Use and Abuse of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights: On the Improper Veneration of “Freedom of Contract”’, 10 European Review of Contract Law (2014) p. 157 .

88 Davies, Bogg and Costello, supra n. 61, p. 133.

89 Ibid., p. 133.

90 ECJ 14 March 2017, Case C-157/15, Samira Achbita and Centrum voor gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding v G4S Secure Solutions NV, para. 38.

91 ECJ 30 June 2016, Case C-134/15, Lidl GmbH & Co. KG v Freistaat Sachsen.

92 Skouris (2010), supra n. 57, p. 15-16.

93 See generally D. Kukovec, ‘Whose Social Europe? The Laval/Viking Judgments and the Prosperity Gap’, 16 April 2010, <>, visited 27 February 2017; Leczykiewicz, D., ‘Conceptualising Conflict between the Economic and the Social in EU Law after Viking and Laval ’, in Freedland and Prassl (eds.), supra n. 48, p. 307 .

94 FRA, supra n. 79, p. 7.

95 Ibid., p. 7.

96 Ibid., p. 11.

97 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, para. 88.

98 Ibid., paras. 48-57.

99 ECJ 18 July 2013, Case C-426/11, Mark Alemo-Herron v Parkwood Leisure Ltd, paras. 30-37.

100 Opinion of AG Wahl in AGET Iraklis, supra n. 2, para. 64.

101 AGET Iraklis, supra n. 1, paras. 79-104.

102 Ibid., para. 103.

103 On the legality of national economic measures on the economic crisis, see e.g. Fabbrini, F., Economic Governance in Europe: Comparative Paradoxes and Constitutional Challenges (Oxford University Press 2016) ch. 2; Hinarejos, A., The Euro Area Crisis in Constitutional Perspective (Oxford University Press 2015) ch. 8; Karatzia, A., ‘An Overview of Litigation in the Context of Financial Assistance to Eurozone Member States’, in M. Szabó et al. (eds.), Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law 2016 (Eleven Publishing 2017) ch. 34.

104 Opinion of AG Wahl in AGET Iraklis, supra n. 2, para. 71. More specifically, the Appendix provides that the following shall not constitute valid reasons for the termination of employment: trade union membership or participation in union activities outside working hours, or, with the consent of the employer, within working hours; seeking office as, acting or having acted in the capacity of a workers’ representative; the filing of a complaint or the participation in proceedings against an employer involving alleged violation of laws or regulations or recourse to competent administrative authorities; race, colour, sex, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin; maternity or parental leave; and temporary absence from work due to illness or injury.

105 <>, visited 5 October 2017, p. 25.

106 M. Markakis, ‘The Implications of the Revised EU Economic Governance Framework for National Economic Policy’, 23 October 2015, <>, visited 3 February 2017.

107 Supra n. 105, p. 2.

108 ‘Eurogroup Statement on Greece’, 5 December 2016, <>, visited 5 October 2017.

109 Greece’s inclusion in QE also depends on the outcome of the European Central Bank’s debt sustainability analysis for the country.

110 Müller, J.-W., What Is Populism? (University of Pennsylvania Press 2016) p. 78-79 .

* Postdoctoral Researcher, EURO-CEFG, Erasmus University Rotterdam. I have benefited from comments from Paul Craig, Anastasia Karatzia, Steve Peers and two anonymous reviewers. The usual disclaimer applies.

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