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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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Part-Time Actors Deserve Work Stability, EU Says

(CN) - Forcing occasional workers in Luxembourg's entertainment industry into an unending string of short-term contracts without making them permanent players constitutes workplace abuse, Europe's highest court ruled Thursday.

Labor law in Luxembourg typically only allows short-term employment contracts to last a total of 24 months, including renewals. But for occasional players in the entertainment industry, short-term contracts can be renewed more than twice and for periods of longer than two years without making the entertainers permanent employees.

Luxembourg argued that this variation in its labor law lets entertainers to pursue personal projects and gives entertainment companies more flexibility in recruiting temporary performers. But the European Commission said the practice enables the abusive use of successive short-term contracts - a violation of the EU's labor framework - and took the case to court.

In a ruling issued on Thursday, the European Court of Justice agreed that the Luxembourgish government had failed to implement EU labor law by not limiting the number of times occasional entertainers could be signed to short-term contracts. The fact that some players choose to pursue individual projects is not the "objective reason" required by EU law justify successive temporary contracts, the court found.

"Even supposing that the national legislation at issue pursues the objective to provide occasional workers in the entertainment arts with a measure of flexibility, as well as social benefits, by making it possible for employers of that category of worker to recruit on the basis of recurring fixed-term employment contracts, such an objective cannot bring that legislation into conformity with EU labor law since it does not prove the existence of specific and concrete circumstances characterizing the activity in question and therefore justifying, in that particular context, the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts," the court - also based in Luxembourg - wrote.

The high court acknowledged that member states have some latitude to consider the needs of a particular sector when implementing EU labor law. But that latitude doesn't relieve Luxembourg of its duty to prevent and - if necessary - penalize the abusive use of successive short-term contracts, the court said.

"To permit a member state to rely on an objective such as the flexibility deriving from the use of fixed-term employment contracts in order to regard itself as relieved of that obligation would be in contradiction with one of the objectives pursued by EU law, stability of employment, considered to be a major element in the protection of workers, and would also be likely to reduce significantly the categories of person able to enjoy the benefit of the protective measures provided for in EU labor law," the court concluded.

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