Peter Mandelson was on BBC Breakfast this morning saying that the problem isn't the EU, or the actions of Total, but judgements by the European Court of Justice.
The judgements (Laval, Rüffert, Luxembourg, and Viking) were in December 2007 and April 2008. Laval and Viking, for example, stem from corporate actions as far back as 2003 and 2004.
In 2003, Viking, which is a Finnish company that runs ferries, employed an Estonian crew and cut its wages by 60%. Laval, which is Latvian, sent workers to Sweden to build schools in 2004. A Swedish construction union asked Laval to honour the existing collective agreement for the building sector. Laval refused, keeping to Latvian pay conditions that undercut the Swedish workers.
In both of these cases, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Viking and Laval. The court "effectively outlawed industrial action where unions are trying to win equal pay for migrant workers and banned public bodies from requiring foreign contractors to pay such workers local rates."
The EU shouldn't be a labour market where workers get the lowest common denominator.
Over the last 10 years, we haven't heard Labour talk about union conditions coming second across Europe. We haven't heard about the negative aspects of an economy dependent on more agency work, on an increase in short-term contracts, subcontracting, and the corporate sector using more people who are "self-employed". That's because they were fine with it.
As Jon Cruddas points out:
"Exploitation, precarious jobs and exploitative levels of pay could be offset by cheap credit and then hidden behind the sparkle of consumerism. Those times are over. With social insurance in short supply, people's key source of economic security was the rising asset value of their homes. That's gone. There is no cheap credit to make up for falling or stagnant wages."