Chapter 23: Should the EU be Attempting to Harmonise National Systems of Labour Law?
* Phil Syrpis** Introduction Throughout the history of European integration, harmonisation has occurred in a piecemeal fashion. Combinations of political factors determine whether particular policy areas become candidates for harmonisation. Likewise, political contingencies dictate not only whether harmonisation initiatives come to fruition, but also the form which any such measures take. Many of the chapters in this collection address arguments for and against harmonisation of particular aspects of law and practice within the EU. My contention is that it is important to distinguish between the range of principled arguments which may be made both in favour of, and against, various harmonisation initiatives; and on the basis of these distinctions, to attempt to identify criteria which may be used in order to locate those policy areas which may, or may not, be candidates for harmonisation. The focus of this contribution is labour law. The role of the EU in labour law has always been contentious. There are a number of plausible rationales for EU intervention in domestic labour law. A crucial question is the extent to which these various rationales call for harmonisation or approximation;1 for the purposes of this chapter, this is taken to involve the elimination (or at least the reduction) of differences between the labour law regimes of the Member States. * A version of this chapter appears in European Business Law Review 143 (2010). ** University of Bristol, UK. 1 It seems that the terms approximation and harmonisation ‘are entirely interchangeable’. Dashwood, A (1996), ‘The Limits of EC Powers’,...
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