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2022/8 Port Labour Act not in conflict with the Belgian Constitution (BE)

Journal European Employment Law Cases, Issue 1 2022
Keywords Free Movement, Work and Residence Permit
Authors Heleen Franco and Julien Hick
AbstractAuthor's information

    In its judgment of 25 November 2021, the Belgian Constitutional Court has upheld the obligation to call on recognised dock workers for the activity consisting of preparing trailers on a dock for shipment with a vehicle specifically intended for that purpose (known as a ‘tugmaster tractor’). The obligation to rely solely on recognised dock workers for the performance of port work is justified, among other things, by the need to improve safety in port areas and to prevent accidents at work. The identical treatment of, on the one hand, the loading and unloading of ships in the strict sense and, on the other hand, the activity of preparing trailers on a dock for shipment with a tugmaster tractor, does not breach the principle of equality and non-discrimination. Therefore, equal treatment of both types of port labour, with regard to the obligation to call on recognised dock workers, is reasonably justified.


Heleen Franco
Heleen Franco is a senior associate at AKD, Brussels.

Julien Hick
Julien Hick is a partner at AKD, Brussels.

    Ryanair and Crewlink have finally been found in violation of Belgian mandatory provisions following the ruling of the ECJ in cases C-168/16 and C-169/16 (Nogueira and Others) and ordered to pay certain amounts to the employees involved by virtue of Belgian mandatory provisions. Yet, this trade union victory has a bitter taste for those employees, who were refused their main claim, i.e. to be paid normal remuneration for on-call time at the airport.


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert is an Attorney at Van Olmen & Wynant.

    The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that ‘gender critical’ beliefs are protected philosophical beliefs for equality law purposes, while confirming that a belief in ‘gender identity’ is also a protected characteristic. This means that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because they do or do not hold either of those beliefs.


Bethan Carney
Bethan Carney is a Managing Practice Development Lawyer, Lewis Silkin LLP.

    This article focuses on the posting of workers in the aviation industry. The main problem is that it is not clear in which situations the Posting of Workers Directive should be applied to aircrew (i.e. cabin crew and pilots). The aviation sector is characterised by a very mobile workforce in which it is possible for employees to provide services from different countries in a very short timeframe. This makes it, to a certain extent, easier for employers to choose the applicable social legislation, which can lead to detrimental working conditions for their aircrew. This article looks into how the Posting of Workers Directive can prevent some air carriers from unilaterally determining the applicable social legislation and makes some suggestions to end unfair social competition in the sector. This article is based on a research report which the authors drafted in 2019 with funding from the European Commission (hereafter the ‘Report’)


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert (PhD) is senior associate at the Brussels law firm Van Olmen & Wynant.

Pieter Pecinovsky
Pieter Pecinovsky (PhD) is counsel at the Brussels law firm Van Olmen & Wynant.

    The recent spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how economic vulnerability varies considerably across European Member States (MSs), and so does social protection in the European Union (EU). The social and economic consequences of the pandemic have impacted asymmetrically national labour markets and exacerbated existing disparities and contradictions. A measure that most governments have introduced in the immediate aftermath has been that of making financial support available to those self-employed workers who lost fully or in part their income. Most MSs have employed quantitative thresholds to identify those self-employed more in need of public subsidies and have proportioned them according to the pre-pandemic levels of income, on the condition that they have been officially recorded as taxable revenues.
    Despite their heterogeneity, we can reasonably affirm that the self-employed have been one of the most exposed clusters of the labour market to in-work poverty and economic uncertainty, which proved to be particularly problematic in periods of unforeseeable crisis, such as that of 2008 and even more so that of 2020. This article explores the range of EU-level measures designed for the self-employed and questions their potential impact on MSs’ legislation.


Luca Ratti
Luca Ratti is a professor at the University of Luxembourg.

    The UK Employment Tribunals and England and Wales Court of Appeal (case [2018] EWCA Civ 2748) have ruled that any Uber driver who has the Uber App switched on, is in the territory where he/she is authorised to work, and is able and willing to accept assignments, is working for Uber under a worker contract. The UK courts disregarded some of the provisions of Uber’s driver agreement. They had been entitled to do so because the relevant provisions of the driver agreement did not reflect the reality of the bargain made between the parties. The fact that Uber interviews and recruits drivers, controls the key information, requires drivers to accept trips, sets the route, fixes the fare, imposes numerous conditions on drivers, determines remuneration, amends the driver’s terms unilaterally, and handles complaints by passengers, makes it a transportation or passenger carrier, not an information and electronic technology provider. Therefore the UK courts resolved the central issue of for whom (Uber) and under a contract with whom (Uber), drivers perform their services. Uber is a modern business phenomenon. Regardless of its special position in business, Uber is obliged to follow the rules according to which work is neither a commodity nor an online technology.


Andrzej Świątkowski
Andrzej Marian Świątkowski is a professor at Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow. ((ORCID: 0000-0003-1753-7810))

James Davies
James Davies is Joint Head of Employment team at Lewis Silkin LLP in London, www.lewissilkin.com.
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