Entities to which International Guarantees Apply

Sigurdur A. Sigurjónsson v Iceland, 30 June 1993 [ECtHR]


Case no 16130/90

7. Mr Sigurdur A. Sigurjónsson is an Icelandic national. He is a taxi driver and resides in Reykjavik.

8. On 24 October 1984 he was granted a licence to operate a taxicab by the "licence issuers" (a body later named the Committee for Taxicab Supervision - the "Committee"; see paragraphs 18 and 20 below). The decision was taken under Law no. 36/1970 on Motor Vehicles for Public Hire ("the 1970 Law") and Regulation no. 320/1983 ("the 1983 Regulation") issued by the Minister of Transport under Article 10 of the Law (see paragraph 18 below).
The applicant had applied for a licence using a printed form addressed to the Frami Automobile Association ("Frami"). This standard form contained a statement to the effect that the applicant was aware of the obligation to pay membership fees to Frami on becoming a member.
When he was granted the licence, the applicant undertook to observe the conditions provided for in the 1983 Regulation, on the understanding that a failure to do so could lead to its suspension or revocation. One such condition was that he apply for membership of Frami (Article 8 of the 1983 Regulation), which he had done on 26 September 1984. (...)

29.   The applicant alleged that the obligation incumbent on him to be a member of Frami on pain of losing his licence constituted a violation of Article 11 (art. 11) of the Convention. (...)
The Government disputed this contention, whereas the Commission agreed.

A. The existence of an interference with a right guaranteed by Article 11 (art. 11)

1.Whether Frami was an "association"

30.   The Government contended that Frami was not a "trade union", nor even an "association", within the meaning of Article 11 (art. 11), but a professional organisation of a public-law character. They invoked mainly the following arguments:
     (a) Although not established by law, Frami performed certain functions which were provided for by law or had evolved through practice and served the public interest no less than the interests of its members (see paragraphs 22-23 above). Frami was thus the lowest administrative level in a hierarchy comprising, apart from Frami itself, the Committee and the Ministry.
     (b) Frami was not an employees’ organisation representing its members in conflicts with their employer or engaging in collective bargaining and was not affiliated to the Icelandic Federation of Labour. Instead, it had a membership composed principally of independent business operators and itself fixed the rates for services, any changes in which were subject to the approval of the price-control authorities.

31. The Court agrees with the applicant and the Commission that the above-mentioned elements are not sufficient for Frami to be regarded as a public-law association outside the ambit of Article 11 (art. 11). Admittedly, Frami performed certain functions which were to some extent provided for in the applicable legislation and which served not only its members but also the public at large (see paragraphs 22-23 above). However, the role of supervision of the implementation of the relevant rules was entrusted primarily to another institution, namely the Committee, which in addition had the power to issue licences and to decide on their suspension and revocation (see paragraphs 20 and 25 above). Frami was established under private law and enjoyed full autonomy in determining its own aims, organisation and procedure. According to its Articles, admittedly old and currently under revision, the purpose of Frami was to protect the professional interests of its members and promote solidarity among professional taxicab drivers; to determine, negotiate and present demands relating to the working hours, wages and rates of its members; to seek to maintain limitations on the number of taxicabs and to represent its members before the public authorities (see paragraph 21 above). Frami was therefore predominantly a private-law organisation and must thus be considered an "association" for the purposes of Article 11 (art. 11).

32. It is not necessary to decide whether Frami can also be regarded as a trade union within the meaning of Article 11 (art. 11), since the right to form and join trade unions in that provision is an aspect of the wider right to freedom of association, rather than a separate right (see, amongst other authorities, the Schmidt and Dahlström v. Sweden judgment of 6 February 1976, Series A no. 21, p. 15, para. 34).

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