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Gustafsson v. Sweden, Judgment of the ECtHR, 25 April 1996 [1996] IIHRL 34 (25 April 1996)

Facts: The applicant owned a restaurant and youth hostel. The restaurant had hired less than 10 employees on a seasonal basis, but had the option of being re-employed. The applicant was not a member of any association of restaurant employers and was therefore not bound by any collective labour. Following the applicant's refusal to sign a substitute agreement, the association of restaurant employers placed his restaurant under a blockade. The applicant requested that the Government prohibit the association from continuing the blockade under article 11 of the Convention and order the unions to pay damages

Complaint: the union action had infringed the applicant’s right to freedom of association and the failure of the respondent State to protect him against this action constituted a violation of Article 11 ECHR, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, Article 6(1) in that he had no access to court and that this also constituted a violation of Article 13.

Holding: the ECHR found no violation of article 11, 1 and 13.

Reasoning: The Court accepted that the applicant’s enjoyment of freedom of association was affected,  so Article 11 was applicable. However, Article 11 did not as such guarantee a right not to enter into a collective agreement. The positive obligation incumbent on the State under Article 11 might extend to treatment connected with operation of a collective bargaining system but only where such treatment impinged on freedom of association. Such compulsion significantly affecting the enjoyment of that freedom did not exist here and could not result in a violation of article 11, even if it caused economic damage. Furthermore, the facts were not the product of an exercise of governmental authority so Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 was not applicable. Article 6(1) was not applicable either.




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