Chapter 1: Themes in EU Labour Law
EU labour law can be complex and confusing, and just occasionally downright annoying, but it is always fascinating and sometimes even inspiring. This chapter tries to set the stage for the rest of the book by explaining what EU labour law is and the techniques we will be using to get an understanding of the legal materials. We will then turn to an exploration of some of the explanations or justifications for the existence of EU labour law in one form or another. The chapter concludes by discussing some current themes and controversies in the subject. WHAT IS EU LABOUR LAW? There is less agreement than you might suppose about what exactly EU labour law includes. We need to think carefully about the significance of ‘EU’, ‘labour’ and ‘law’, and about the place of EU labour law within EU law more generally. The obvious difference between EU labour law and national labour law is that EU labour law forms part of a supranational legal system. Of course, as any student of EU law knows, EU law has some key features which make it a special kind of supranational legal system with deep penetration into national legal systems. One such feature is the doctrine of supremacy, which means that EU law wins when there is a conflict between EU law and national law,1 and another is the doctrine of direct effect, which means that (under certain circumstances) EU legislation can be applied by the national courts without any need for...
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