The boycott prevented Holship staff to unload and load ships that the company receives in the Port of Drammen. The purpose of the boycott was to force Holship to enter into a collective agreement. A separate framework agreement contains provisions that registered stevedores services shall have priority for loading and unloading work. NTF went to court to declare the boycott illegal.
The majority in the Supreme Court concluded that although the overarching purpose of the boycott was to safeguard workers’ interests, the primary purpose was to prevent Holship in establishing itself in loading and unloading operations in the Port of Drammen. Such purposes cannot justify restrictions on the free movement within the EEA. In the balance between the right of establishment and the right to boycott the majority found that the right boycott had to depart.
The minority concluded that the boycott is legal. It concluded that the restriction on freedom of establishment could be justified. It was, in this context in particular, pointed out that the purpose is to ensure workers, the framework agreement is suited to addressing this and that the target cannot be reached with less intrusive means.
The decision is important for the understanding of the EEA Agreement Article 31 and the weighing of freedom of establishment against the fundamental rights of association, etc.