Commission backs Swedish Model

The 'Swedish Model' of collective agreements is in line with EU rules, according to a statement today by the European Commission.

There is no clash between the principles of the Swedish social model and the free movement of services, goods, capital and labour enshrined in the EU treaties, commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger argued.

The commission made its views known in a submission to the European Court about the controversial Vaxholm case, in which Swedish unions’ right to demand that foreign companies sign Swedish collective agreements is being challenged.

“It is possible for Swedish trade unions to demand that foreign companies with employees on postings in Sweden negotiate collective agreements,” said Laitenberger in a press release.

“The demands in the collective agreement must be in line with the so-called Posting of Workers Directive, which contains rules about what EU member states must do when they receive workers from other member states,” added Laitenberger.

The row kicked off when construction workers’ union Byggnads blockaded a site in Vaxholm, near Stockholm, where Latvian company Laval had been awarded the contract to do building work on a school. The union said that Laval and its Latvian workers should have signed collective agreements.

The Swedish Labour Court made an interim judgment in favour of the union last December, but in April referred the case to the European Court.

Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for the internal market and services, has previously expressed support for Laval, but today’s statement from the commission forms part of its official submission to the European Court.

The commission’s statement added that part of its testimony to the court would not be made public.

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