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The Swedish model and the future of labour standards after Laval


  • Charles Woolfson is Professor of Labour Studies at Linköping University, Sweden, Christer Thörnqvist is Associate Professor of Work Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Jeffrey Sommers is Associate Professor in Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA.

Charles Woolfson, REMESO, Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society, Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, Holmentorget 10, SE-601 74 Norrköping, Sweden. Email:


This article reflects on the European Court of Justice ruling in the case of Laval, involving Latvian posted workers in Sweden. It analyses the implications of the ruling and ensuing debate over the Laval case for the future of the ‘Swedish model’ and labour standards. It suggests that profound dilemmas now face trade unions both at Swedish national and European level as to appropriate strategies to adopt to defend national pay and working conditions in the light of the European Court decision and especially in the Swedish context due to the subsequent ruling by the Swedish Labour Court. Nevertheless, a human rights discourse is emerging in which the European Court of Human Rights may act as a counterbalance to the European Court of Justice, especially in the context of the Lisbon Treaty.