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Trade union repression in Gijón

Question écrite de M. Miguel URBÁN CRESPO - Commission européenne

Subject: Trade union repression in Gijón

In early 2017, a worker at La Suiza patisserie in Gijón went to the trade union CNT to report sexual harassment and continued abuse by her boss, including being forced to carry bags of flour while pregnant, putting her at risk of miscarriage. After a number of failed communication attempts, two legal gatherings were convened to protest about these conditions, and they took place in a totally normal manner compliant with the rule of law, with no need for police intervention.

The employer subsequently reported more than 30 complaints against the worker and members of the trade union. Of those complaints, only one – for defamation and slander – was successful. Consequently, six people are sharing a sentence of three and a half years’ imprisonment and have to pay compensation of EUR 120 000 for engaging in trade union activity by means of meetings and protest rallies.

In view of this:

1. Could the Commission take action to protect freedom of association in cases such as this? If so, what kind of action?

2. Does the Commission believe that the rights set out in Directives such as Directive 2003/88/EC or Directive (EU) 2019/1152 and the European Pillar of Social Rights are being infringed in cases such as this?


Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 26 mars 2024

Answer given by Mr Schmit on behalf of the European Commission

(27 March 2024)

According to Articles 151 and 152 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), the Union and Member States promote dialogue between management and labour, and the EU promotes the role of social partners at European level.

The functioning of national social dialogue falls however under the responsibility of Member States. The EU’s legislative competence on social policy does not cover the freedom of association (1).

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU recognises the freedom of assembly and of association and the right of collective bargaining and action (2).

However, according to its Article 51 (1), the Charter applies to Member States only when they are implementing EU law. In this case, it is for Member States, including their national judicial authorities, to ensure that their obligations on fundamental rights are respected.

The Council Recommendation on strengthening social dialogue in the EU (3) recommends Member States to ensure an enabling environment for dialogue that respects the freedom of association.

The two EU Directives mentioned by the Honourable Members are implemented by means of national legislation or collective agreements. Member States have a primary responsibility to monitor the application of the relevant legal provisions and to take the necessary steps for enforcement.

The European Pillar of Social Rights consists of principles representing a shared political commitment and responsibility, but it does not constitute an enforceable legal instrument.

The freedom of association is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 87, which all EU Member States have ratified. The standard supervisory system of the ILO can assess compliance of national rules with international labour standards.

1 ∙ ⸱ Article 153(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

2 ∙ ⸱ Article 12 and 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT&from=EN. 3 ∙ ⸱

The Council Recommendation was adopted on 12 June 2023 %3A32023H01389&qid=1701965565966, based on a proposal from the Commission — COM(2023) 38 final content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52023DC0038.

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