Legal Information Centre

05 March 2008 by Mary Heaney

Lawyers look for court guidance on European strike action dashed as key case settles out of court

A key case expected to define when European workers can strike has been settled.
A key case which lawyers hoped might provide some guidance on when European workers are entitled to strike has been settled before an appeal was heard by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).


The dispute between shipping company Viking Line and a group of Finnish seamen over the “reflagging” of the company's ferries from Finland to Estonia and the subsequent employment of a largely Estonian crew had been expected to more clearly define the circumstances in which European workers are legally entitled to take industrial action.


More generally, the case was seen as a critical test of employers' ability to restructure their companies to take advantage of lower wage rates following the European Union's expansion into eastern Europe. Fifteen European countries intervened in the case, with the UK broadly in favour of Viking's arguments but many others taking the workers' side.


The details of the settlement are confidential. The original decision in the European Court of Justice that workers could strike as a “last resort”, which was being appealed by the seamen, was not seen as an outright victory for either side.


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