Deploying the classic 'Community method' in The social policy field: The example of the acquired rights directive

  • Barrett G
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The use of the Community method of legislation, in particular the deployment of directives, has for a long time been at the core of EC labour market policy. This article seeks to reflect on the lessons to be learned from the experience of the adoption and operation of one particularly significant directive, namely the Acquired Rights Directive, and on the experience of its transposition in one Member State, Ireland. Among features noted at the EU level are the watering down of the Commission's initial legislative ambitions; the substantial lacunae, failures to address issues and ambiguities incorporated in the text of the directive, the consequent enlarged role for the Court of Justice and the apparent difficulty in changing policy direction in the event of errors being made. As regards the Irish experience of transposing the directive, lessons learnt have included the importance of the means of implementation chosen by the Member State; the obstructive effect which national industrial relations systems may have on the evolution of a common European approach; the significance which attaches to national sanctions and enforcement mechanisms; the importance attaching to the degree of collective organisation in workplaces where the implementing legislation is sought to be relied upon; and the potential which the implementation of a directive has for disruption of the harmony of a national policy approach. Finally, the use of a form of social dialogue in the implementation of employment-related directives in Ireland is also commented upon.

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  • Gavin Barrett

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