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France – British ski instructors arrested in EU employment law breach

26 February 2014

Seven British ski instructors were arrested in the French Alps earlier this week for reportedly teaching without the proper qualifications, reports The Telegraph. However, some are claiming that the actions by the French police were based more on the fact that the instructors were British, which would be a direct violation of EU law.

Over the weekend, in unprecedented scenes, seven British ski instructors were arrested in what they described as a “carefully orchestrated operation”. Simon Butler, 51, who has worked in the resort for nearly 30 years, was arrested by armed police and spent a night in the cells. Six of his British colleagues were also arrested.  

The offence of which the seven instructors have been accused can carry a prison sentence of up to three months. For Mr Butler, however, he believes that his only real crime was bring British, and not French.

The issue at the heart of the latest arrests, according to The Telegraph, is the demands of the Ecole, which oversees ski instruction in France. Foreign instructors need to be working through their qualifications with a certified French ski school or – a requirement not standard in the ski world – hold the top-level ISTD qualification from the British Association of Snowsports Instructors (BASI).

Critics feel this gives preferential treatment to French instructors. In The Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, called the situation “a complete, naked, shameless and unrepentant breach – by the French – of the principles of the European Single Market.”

According to EU law, the free movement of workers is a fundamental principle of the Treaty enshrined in article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. EU citizens are therefore entitled to:

  • look for a job in another EU country   
  • work there without needing a work permit
  • reside there for that purpose
  • stay there even after employment has finished
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages


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