Collective labour agreements and EU competition law: Five reconfigurations

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The European Commission has recently begun to reflect on whether competition law is a barrier to the formation of collective labour agreements between industry and atypical workers. The policy focus to date has been on whether and how to extend the antitrust labour exemptions to certain classes of atypical worker. This paper shows how efforts in this direction in the Netherlands and Ireland have revealed that this is a tricky path to pursue. As a result, the paper proposes four additional approaches: three of these indicate that even if atypical workers are treated as undertakings and collective bargains between them and employers fall to be assessed under competition law, many agreements will unlikely have anticompetitive effects and for those that may do so, exemptions are possible. A fifth approach is that active antitrust enforcement against employers imposing unfair terms on atypical workers may function to solve some of the concerns that collective bargaining seeks to address.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-744
Number of pages31
JournalEuropean Competition Journal
Issue number3
Early online dateMay 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Albany exception
  • Article 101 TFEU
  • atypical workers
  • collective bargaining
  • gig economy


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