Research Handbooks in European Law series
Edited by Frans Pennings and Gijsbert Vonk
Chapter 4: Social security in the ‘case law’ of the Social Rights Committee
The European Social Charter is, arguably, the most comprehensive and extensive international instrument of protection of social rights, preceding by five years the UN Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. It protects explicitly the right to Social Security in Article 12. The importance of the Charter increased after the 1995 Protocol on Collective Complaints, which established a procedure of collective complaints; the latter constitutes an unprecedented monitoring mechanism for social rights, providing for hearings from both sides and a decision stipulating whether the Charter has been violated. Even though the monitoring organ of the Charter, the European Committee of Social Rights, is not a formal court, its decisions can be considered as quasi-judicial acts. Recently, in a number of decisions on collective complaints of trade unions related to restrictions due to the economic crisis in countries of Southern Europe, the Committee has declared a violation of Art. 12, reaffirming its stance that ‘the economic crisis should not have as a consequence the reduction of the protection of the rights recognized by the Charter. Hence, governments are bound to take all necessary steps to ensure that the rights of the Charter are effectively guaranteed at a period of time when beneficiaries most need the protection’.
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