European Committee of Social Rights: Collective Complaint procedure

Applies to/Se aplica a

State practice
State law
Individual cases
For Urgent Action
Only under 18-s
A

Summary

The 1995 Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter establishes a system of Collective Complaints, which mainly allows trade unions or their international organisations to file collective complaints with the European Committee of Social Rights in relation to non-compliance with the Charter. The Collective Complaint procedure does not establish a system of individual complaints, but is meant for cases of non-compliance in a State's law or practice with provisions of the European Social Charter.
If successful, the European Committee of Social Rights will render a decision stating that the State concerned is not in compliance with the European Social Charter, and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will follow up with a resolution.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

If the complaint is declared admissible and upheld by the European Committee of Social Rights, the Committee will take a decisions on the merits of the case. This decision will be transmitted to the parties to the complaint, and to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
According to article 9 of the 1995 Additional Protocol, if the European Committee of Social Rights “finds that the Charter has not been applied in a satisfactory manner, the Committee of Ministers shall adopt, by a majority of two-thirds of those voting, a recommendation addressed to the Contracting Party concerned. In both cases, entitlement to voting shall be limited to the Contracting Parties to the Charter”.
The decision of the European Committee of Social Rights will be made public once the Committee of Ministers has passed a resolution, or at latest four months after the decision has been transmitted to the Committee of Ministers. Before this, the parties to the complaint are not allowed to publish the decision.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

This mechanism only applies to States parties to the 1995 Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter Providing for a System of Collective Complaints (see http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/158.htm). The status of ratifications is available at http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/ChercheSig.asp?NT=158&CM=8&DF=&....

3. Who can submit information?

Articles 1 and 2 of the Additional Protocol define in detail the kind of organisations which can submit a collective complaint. These are:
1. International NGOs with participatory status to the Council of Europe, and representative national organisations of employers and trade unions; and
2. national trade unions (if the State does so allow) can lodge a complaint at any time.
In additional to participatory status, the international NGO needs to be competent in the field and be on a list published by the Council of Europe.
A list of organisations is available at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/OrganisationsEntitled....

4. When to submit information?

A Collective Complaint can be lodged at any time.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

Part VIII of the Rules of the European Committee of Social Rights deal in detail with the Collective Complaint procedure. With few exceptions, a Collective Complaint needs to be submitted in one of the official languages of the Council of Europe (French and English).
A complaint has to be lodged in writing, has to be signed by a representative of the NGO, and needs to state clearly with which provisions of the European Social Charter the State concerned does not comply, and why.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

A complaint will be registered with the Secretariat, and a member of the European Committee of Social Rights will be appointed to act as Rapporteur.
The State concerned will first be requested to submit written observations as to the admissibility of the Complaint. The complainant may then be invited to respond to the observations submitted by the Government. However, the European Committee of Social Rights can also decide to not involve the State and the complainant, if the complaint is either manifestly admissible or inadmissible. The decision on admissibility will be published on the website of the European Committee of Social Rights.

After a complaint has been declared admissible, the Committee will examine the merits of the case. The Committee will first ask the State concerned to submit written observations on the merits. Following this, the complainant will be given the opportunity to comment on the submission of the State.

International trade union organisations and other States parties to the Revised European Social Charter are also given the opportunity to comment on the submissions. Should one of the parties to the complaint request it, the Committee will decide whether to hold a hearing.

Finally, the European Committee of Social Rights will take a decision on the merits of the case. This decision includes the reasons, and may include dissenting opinions. The decisions will be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers will then pass a resolution based on the decision by the European Committee of Social Rights.

The decision of the European Committee of Social Rights will be made public once the Committee of Ministers has passed a resolution, or at latest four months after the decision has been transmitted to the Committee of Ministers. Before this, the parties to the complaint are not allowed to publish the decision.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

In relation to conscientious objection to military service, the European Committee of Social Rights has only been used once so far (as of July 2010). In the case of Greece, the Quaker Council of European Affairs lodged a complaint (No. 8/2000) regarding the treatment of conscientious objectors in the country. On 25 April 2001 the Committee found that Greece is violating the European Social Charter by keeping conscientious objectors away from the labour market for a time disproportional longer than soldiers and therefore is in breach of Article 1 para 2 of the Charter.

Contact Details: 
Secretariat of the European Social Charter Council of Europe Directorate general of Human Rights and Legal Affairs Directorate of Monitoring F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex Tel. +33-3-88 41 32 58 Fax. +33-3-88 41 37 00
Further Reading: 
Decisions
Title Date
Committee of Ministers: Resolution ResChS(2002)3: Collective Complaint No. 8/2000 Quakers’ Council for European Affairs against Greece 06/03/2002

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 6 March 2002
at the 786th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

The Committee of Ministers,[1]

Having regard to Article 9 of the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter providing for a system of collective complaints,
Considering the complaint lodged on 10 March 2000 by the Quakers’ Council for European Affairs against Greece,
Considering the report submitted to it by the European Committee of Social Rights, in which the length of civilian service served by conscientious objectors in Greece is found not to be in conformity with Article 1, paragraph 2 of the Charter,
1. takes note that the report of the European Committee of Social Rights has been circulated to the competent authorities including the Parliament and is being translated into Greek;
2. takes note of the recent measures including the revision of the Greek Constitution (Official Gazette 84/4/17-4-2001) and the decrease of the length of military service (Official Gazette 1407 – 22 October 2001);
3. takes note that the Greek Government undertakes to take the matter into consideration with a view to bring the situation into conformity with the Charter in good time.

Note [1] In conformity with Article 9 of the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter providing for a system of collective complaints, the Deputies in their composition restricted to the Representatives of Contracting Parties to the European Social Charter or the revised European Social Charter participated in the vote, that is Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Length/terms of service Recognised
Decision on the merits of Complaint No. 8/2000 by the Quaker Council for European Affairs against Greece 25/04/2001

The Committee observes (…) that the duration of civilian service is 18 months longer than that of the corresponding military service, be it 18, 19 or 21 months, or reduced to 12, 6 or 3 months. A conscientious objector may therefore perform alternative civilian service for a period of up to 39 months. The Committee considers that these 18 additional months, during which the persons concerned are denied the right to earn their living in an occupation freely entered upon, do not come within reasonable limits, compared to the duration of military service. It therefore considers that this additional duration, because of its excessive character, amounts to a disproportionate restriction on “the right of the worker to earn his living in an occupation freely entered upon”, and is contrary to Article 1 para 2 of the Charter.

Length/terms of service Recognised