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Austria: EIRO CAR on the Changing Business Landscape in the Electricity sector and Industrial Relations in Europe

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Employment has remained very stable in the electricity sector throughout and after the financial and economic crisis. The number of employees has been around 22,500 workers since 2008. There are two sectoral collective agreements to be found (which neither distinguish between electricity generation and distribution, nor according to energy source) and three company agreements of larger municipalities not limited to electricity but public utilities. The social partners were involved in energy policy formulation and drafting of the National Action Plan with regards to renewable energy sources. No noticeable changes have occurred with regards to employment and employment conditions in the renewable sources subsector as the vast majority of RES generation still lies with established businesses. Working conditions in the sector have not significantly changed since 2008.

1. General background information on the energy policy in your country and employment trends

1.1. Please explain briefly the main governmental strategies/action in relation to the electricity production and energy source mix. In your answer, please include information on the following aspects, where possible:

  • Is there an outspoken policy or plan in your country for any kind of change towards an increase or decrease of electricity production with any of the different sources (coal, oil, gas, hydro, eolic, sun, etc.)?
  • Which is the targeted energy mix for the future (see material provided)? How, in which subsequent steps, such targets are expected to be met?

In March 2010, the Austrian government (i.e. Mr Berlakovich, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) and Mr Mitterlehner, Minister for Economic Affairs (BMWFJ), both of the conservative People’s Party ÖVP) presented the ‘Energy Strategy Austria’, which consists of a set of suggested measures to be implemented. The presentation of the energy strategy was followed by a year-long consultation process initiated by the two ministers which started a large participatory consulting process in which some 150 persons were taking part: representatives of the ministries, of the provinces, stakeholders from science/research, economy, environment and society. The 370 proposed measures were analysed and evaluated by four different institutions (Austrian Energy Agency, the Environmental Agency Austria, Energie-Control Austria and the Austrian Institute of Economic Research) and form the basis for the energy strategy. The package of measures is to be discussed within the government coalition and to be elaborated and subsequently implemented. The aims of the energy strategy are in line with EU legislation; in accordance with Directive 2009/28/EC, which states that Austria is to increase its share of renewable energy in the gross final consumption of energy to 34% by 2020, the 2010 National Reneweble Energy Action Plan (NREAP-AT) was developed. The target is based on the 2005 value of a 24.4% share that Austria had reached back then. In order to reach the target, two preconditions are to be met:

a 13% energy reduction is to be achieved by 2020 (from the base year 2005); and

the volume of renewable energy must be increased by 18% in 2020 (from 2008).

The energy strategy has a threefold strategy in order to meet these targets: increasing the energy efficiency and saving energy; securing the energy supply sustainably; and increasing the share of renewable energy sources. Oesterreichs Energie OEE, the major employer organisation in the electricity industry which was also involved in drafting the energy strategy, has made calculations based on the government’s targets and states that between 2008 and 2020, some (additional) 70 PJ renewable energy sources need to be generated. In the NREAP-AT, estimates are provided for the total contribution (gross electricity generation) which is expected from RES in order to meet the 2020 targets. Thus, hydro power is to be increased from 37,125 GWh in 2005 to 42,112 GWh in 2010 (+13%); geothermal energy to remain stable (2 GWh); solar power to increase from 21 GWh (2005) to 306 GWh by 2020 (x15); wind power to increase from 1,343 GWh to 4,811 GWh (x3.6); and biomass from 2,823 GWh in 2005 to 5,147 GWh by 2020 (almost doubled); in total, the increase in renewables in electricity generation lies at 11,063 GWh (+27%). Concrete steps or an appropriate strategy on how this increase is to be reached are not explicitly provided.

Concurrently, the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology BMVIT has launched a strategic process to develop a long-term vision for the future of energy in Austria (Energie 2050) which consists of events, workshops, studies, hearings and research tenders for projects in the area.

  • Are investments in networks (new connections, upgrade) envisaged? To what extent? With which specific goals?

In accordance with the TYNPD (Ten-Year Network Development Plan) published by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity ENTSO-E, there are plans and acknowledgement of the need to expand the transmission networks in Austria (also in order to meet the EU’s 20-20-20 goals). Since 1 January 2011, there are two different national transmission system operators in Austria: the country’s largest operator, the Austrian Power Grid AG (APG) covers eight out of nine regional provinces in Austria with the exception of Vorarlberg and the VKW-Netz AG covers the province of Vorarlberg (until the end of 2010, a third transmission system, the TIWAG-Netz AG covered the province of Tyrol). According to the Austrian Electricity Management and Organisation Act (ElWOG), the APG is responsible for expanding the transmission networks ‘securely and reliably in an anticipatory way’. Under EIWOG 2010 paragraph 37, the drafting of a Transmission Development Plan (NEP) is a legal obligation. The NEP is based on the long-term strategic plans of the APG’s master plan 2020 in which long-term strategic plans to expand the network (as part of the ten-year plan of the ENTSO-E) were formulated. The APG thus is to inform all stakeholders, which of the important transmission infrastructure needs to be expanded. Between 2010 and 2021, annual investments of about EUR 150 million are planned. The NEP 2011 is currently under approval by E-Control, a special regulatory agency which was introduced by law in 2001.

  • What is the Government stance and what are the ongoing/envisaged action towards generation of electricity from the different broad groups of sources: nuclear /fossile /renewable energy?

Electricity generation in Austria is hugely dominated by hydro power; since the beginning of the 1960s, the share of hydro power has roughly quadrupled. In 2009, some 62% of the domestic gross electricity production of 69 TWh stemmed from hydro power stations (43% from run-of-river plants and 19% from storage plants). The potential of hydro power has been developed to about 70%. Some 8% of all generated electricity in 2009 stems from other ‘green’ production (without hydro, i.e. wind energy, biomass, solar, geothermal), 7% from hard coal and lignite, 2% oil, 18% natural gas and 2% other (not identified) sources (BMWFJ 2011: 67). In the latest amendment to the Green Electricity Act (ÖSG, more detailed below) the following expansion targets (i.e. additional generation of power) for renewable sources for 2020 have been set:

- hydro power: 1,000 MW

- wind power: 2,000 MW

- bio mass and bio gas: 200 MW

- solar energy: 1,200 MW

The regulatory authority E-Control is to monitor whether these envisaged targets are being reached bi-annually.

Austria has no nuclear power stations and the government considers the use of nuclear energy neither a sustainable form of energy supply nor a viable option for effectively combating climate change. Already back in 1978, Austria waived its right to use nuclear energy due to the federal law for a non-nuclear Austria (BGBl.Nr. 676/78, Ban on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy) which was put in constitution law rank in 1999. However, Austria imports nuclear energy and by increasing power generation from renewable sources, the dependency on foreign nuclear power is to be abolished.

  • What are the recent employment trends in the different subsectors of power generation according to the different broad groups of sources: nuclear/fossile/renewable energy? Please indicate development since 2005 with reference to generation, distribution, and sale separately.
Total employment






Production of electricity (NACE Rev.2: 3511; NACE Rev.1.1: 4011)






Transmission of electricity (NACE Rev.2: 3512; NACE Rev.1.1: 4012)






Distribution of electricity (NACE Rev. 2: 3513; NACE Rev.1.1: 4013: includes trade of electricity)






Trade of electricity (NACE Rev.2: 3514; NACE Rev.1.1: included in 4013)






Electric power generation, transmission, distribution and trade

(NACE Rev.2: 351; Rev.1.1: 401)






Source: Statistik Austria, Leistungs- und Strukturdaten; NACE 351 (NACE Rev.2) and NACE 401 (NACE Rev.1.1)

* according to NACE Rev.1.1

** according to NACE Rev.2

1.2. Government policy for increase of the share of renewable resources according to the RES directive

  • Are any subsidies being granted for different types of RES for electricity providers? If yes, please provide briefly the details

The Green Electricity Act (ÖSG) provides for support for energy from renewable sources in the electricity sector. The ÖSG was first implemented in 2002 and has since been amended several times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011). The latest amendment of the ÖSG was adopted by parliament on 29 July 2011 and is to be implemented in 2012. Thus since 2002, eco-electricity plants (i.e. small-scale hydro-electric plants and other plants producing electric energy which are operated on the basis of renewable energy sources) have been supported with feed-in tariffs in the framework of the ÖSG. The support is processed via a centre established for processing and administering green electricity, the so-called OeMAG. The electricity which is deliverd to the grid is paid at a tariff determined by OeMAG for a guaranteed period (15 years for ressource dependent technologies, i.e. biomass and bio gas, and 13 years for other green electricity technologies). The award of supplier contracts takes place on a first come, first served basis; as demand is bigger than supply, waiting lists had to be set up. The latest amendment of the ÖSG from 2011 includes an additional annual support volume of EUR 50 million (increased from EUR 21 million before the latest amendment); of this amount, some EUR 8 million are reserved for solar energy; EUR 10 million for biomass and bio gas; at least EUR 11.5 million for wind power; at least EUR 1.5 million for small-scale hydro power plants; the rest sum of EUR 19 million is to be reduced by EUR 1 million annually until the total support volume has reached EUR 40 million per annum. These subsidies are for green energy plants which are to be newly contracted. For those projects which have applied for subsidies before and are currently on a waiting list, extra one-time sums of EUR 80 million for wind power and EUR 28 million for solar energy are allocated. Small photovoltaic systems (below 5 kV) are supported by means of the Climate and Energy Fund and small-scale (up to 10 MW bottleneck capacity) and medium-scale hydro plants (up to 20 MW bottleneck capacity) are awarded investment grants (EUR 16 million annually for small-scale hydro-electric plants, plus a one-time investment of EUR 20 million presumabely in 2013; and a volume of EUR 50 million investment grant for medium-scale hydro-electric plants all together, with no more than EUR 7.5 million paid annually until 2014).

  • Have subsidies for RES been cut recently? Was this a result of the crisis, of budget constraints, or the result of a policy revision (following a policy assessment, due to a disporportionate use of subsidies, etc.)? Please provide brief details.

Subsidies for RES have not been cut recently; on the contrary, as shown above, they have been largely increased in the latest amendment to the Green Electricity Act.

  • Are there any other forms of support foreseen for promoting electricity generation of RES?

There are several programmes for companies receiving consulting on energy efficiency which vary by province and which are usually subsidised by state or provincial authorities and/or the Federal Economic Chamber (WKO). To name a few, in 2009, a nationwide programme, the so-called ‘SME Cheque’ on energy efficiency consulting was initiated by the Climate and Energy Fund, with support from the WKO and targeted towards improving the energy efficiency of companies. SMEs receive substantial funding when they undergo the consulting process. Also, as part of the climate protection initiative by the BWLFUW, energy efficient companies are awarded a prize.

  • Please include any other aspects you consider to be worth mentioning regarding the state of play and the future prospects of RES in your country.


1.3. Are there any studies and documents assessing the employment impact of energy policies and of prospective changes in the energy mix within the electricity sector? This could include, for instance,

  • Employment effects resulting from the unbundling of activities (production from distribution)
  • Employment effects (on quantity and quality of work) resulting from the possible shifts within the electricity production sector from traditional sources to RES
  • Employment effects from investments in infrastructure (renewal of grids, introduction of smart meter technology, district heating)
  • The need for retraining of workers or provision of new qualifications linked to the sector transformations
  • Possible spatial mobility of workers as a result of more decentralised production (linked both to new activities and to restructuring of existing ones)
  • Please include any other aspects you consider to be worth mentioning regarding prospective impacts on employment and industrial relations

There are several studies that investigate quantitative employment effects on the liberalisation of the energy market and on projected investments in RES (see below); however, only very few studies on qualitative employment effects (i.e. need for training and skills) have recently been published. They focus on ‘green jobs’ and ‘green skills’ in general and span large parts of the overall economy. To be mentioned here is the study by Prospect (2010) which analyses education and further training currently available for skills in ‘green jobs’ in Austria and exemplary shows the development of qualification requirements in the installations and buildings technology sector.

The Austrian Institute of Economic Research WIFO (Kratena 2004) published a report in 2004 evaluating the liberalisation of the energy market with regards to the macro economic performance of Austria. The author comes to the conclusion that the liberalisation had a minor employment effect on the whole economy (over all sectors) of +0.2 percentage points; employment in the energy sector alone, though, decreased by 10.5 percentage points between 1999 and 2003 as increased productivity in the sector decreased demand for labour.

A few studies have been published which investigate employment effects of prospective changes in the energy mix (i.e. increasing electricity generation from RES). Kranzl et al. (2005) have investigated employment effects of expected increased application of/ investment in energy technologies from RES (biomass (solid, gas, liquid), geothermal energy, small hydro power, photovoltaic, solar thermal energy, heat pumps and wind power) by 2012. The additional number of jobs to be created (fulltime equivalents) by the production and installation of renewable energy technologies was at 13,600. The operation of these technologies, the study suggests, would have an additional effect of some 19,100 jobs created, marking a total effect of almost 33,300 additional jobs. It needs to be noted, however, that these employment effects are not limited to the electricity sector, but its supplier sectors, as well.

The BMVIT (2011) only recently published a study on employment effects of wind energy based on a survey of companies operating in the wind power sector and a quantitative input/output analysis. The authors come to the conclusion that while in Austria in 2010, some 3,264 jobs (in fulltime equivalents) in the sector and its supplying sectors were filled, the numbers are likely to increase to 8,371 jobs by 2020 (6,205 primary sectoral jobs and 2,166 secondary jobs in supplier and service industries), given that sufficient appropriately trained workers are available.

A study on green jobs in Austria, published in 2010 by the Institute of Advanced Studies IHS (Balabanov et al.), evaluates in detail measures from the proposals for an Austrian Energy Strategy and shows their potential employment effects for the overall economy.

1.4 To what extent are the social partners involved or consulted concerning the governmental energy policy, notably in relation to employment impacts? Has this happened on an ad-hoc basis or on a structural, permanent basis? Is there a special tripartite social dialogue body for such consultations? Did consultation take place at national level, at sector level, or at the initiative of individual companies? Please briefly provide details.

Social partners are involved constantly and on a structural basis in developing governmental policies due to their representation in the national council. Furthermore, cooperation between organised business (WKO, OEE and the Industrialists’ Federation IV) and organised labour (Chamber of Labour AK and the Austrian Trade Union Federation ÖGB and its affiliate unions) takes place on an ad-hoc basis when common interests are shared between the two sides of industry (e.g. on legislation on facilities or industrial installations and their employment policy impacts). No specific tripartite body is established. Consultations usually take place at the sectoral level.

2. Composition, structure and employment trends for the different resources used for electricity production

2.1 Please give an overview of the current sectoral composition of electricity production in your country, by giving for each of these seven groups of energy sources, the NAME of the three largest producing, the NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES of these companies, and the public or private STATUS of the EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP with their employees.

For all companies listed, as a summary, please indicate:

  1. Total production and its distribution across different energy sources
  2. Total employment and its distribution across different energy sources
  3. Production plants and their respective energy source(s)

It is not possible to provide the requested data (top three producing companies according to energy source) due to the fact that according to the Federal Statistics Act (BStatG), the national statistic agency Statistik Austria is only allowed to publish aggregate data. The major employer organisation OEE does not have the specified data, either. Thus, only an overview of the largest electricity generating companies is given below. The major producers usually generate electricity from a variety of sources.

The largest electricity generating company in Austria is the Verbund, a listed corporation which is majority owned by the state. It covers over 40% of the domestic electricity demand, according to the company. Ninety percent of the electricity it produces stems from hydro power (generated by the Verbund Hydro Power AG). In Austria, the Verbund operates 20 storage power plants, 88 run-of-river plants (and several more in Germany), three thermal power stations (electricity generated by Verbund Thermal Power GmbH&Co KG) and three wind parks; it does not operate photovoltaic plants in Austria (but two in Spain). In 2010, Verbund produced 31,078 GWh electricity in total: 26,708 GWh electricity from hydro power plants (including power stations in Germany); 4,258 GWh from thermal power plants; and 112 GWh from wind parks and photovoltaic plants (three wind parks in Austria, one in Bulgaria and two photovoltaic power plants in Spain). Thus, 86% of the corporation’s own energy generation came from hydro power plants and 14% from thermal power plants. The whole Verbund corporation (which is not limited to the electricity generating sector, but includes transmission, distribution and trade of electricity) has about 3,000 employees all together; no further information as to employment in the various subsectors according to energy sources is available. Several other small-scale companies operating hydro power stations only cover a small market share of electricity generation as the market has only been fully liberalised in 2001. Austrian Wind Power, a 100% subsidiary of the partially Burgenland province owned electricity supplier BEWAG, is the largest Austrian generator of wind power with ten wind parks with 138 wind turbines and some 18 employees in 2010. It produces 507 GWh annually. Wienstrom, the electricity generating subsidiary of Wien Energie, operates three thermal power plants, six small-scale hydro power plants and several wind farms and photovoltaic plants. Additionally, since 2006, it has been operating Europe’s largest forest biomass power plant together with the Austrian Federal Forests (ÖBf). Wienstrom produced some 7,201 GWh electricity in the business year 2009/10, of which 89.5% was produced in thermal power plants; 6.7% in hydro power plants; 2.2% in biomass power plants; 1.5% in wind farms; and 0.1% in waste incineration. In 2009/10, Wien Energie (which encompasses not only energy production, but also energy supply, waste recycling, facility management, telecommunications, energy advice and energy services with regards to energy efficiency) employed on average about 5,500 employees.

Public ownership (in particular by the provinces) prevails in the electricity sector. Every Austrian province has its own electricity supplier. Through cross shareholdings via alliances (e.g. ENERGIEALLIANZ Austria made up of BEGAS, BEWAG, EVN and Wien Energie), they are highly interconnected.

There is no information available as to the biggest producer of electricity from photovoltaic sources in Austria. There are several larger photovoltaic plants operated by some of the electricity generating companies mentioned above; many photovoltaic plants are to be found on privately owned buildings, generating electricity for their own use and selling excess electricity to electricity suppliers.

Number of electricity companies






Production of electricity (NACE Rev.2: 3511; NACE Rev.1.1: 4011)






Transmission of electricity (NACE Rev.2: 3512; NACE Rev.1.1: 4012)






Distribution of electricity (NACE Rev. 2: 3513; NACE Rev.1.1: 4013: includes trade of electricity)






Trade of electricity (NACE Rev.2: 3514; NACE Rev.1.1: included in 4013)






Electric power generation, transmission, distribution and trade

(NACE Rev.2: 351; Rev.1.1: 401)






Source: Statistik Austria, Leistungs- und Strukturdaten; NACE 351 (NACE Rev.2) and NACE 401 (NACE Rev.1.1)

* according to NACE Rev.1.1

** according to NACE Rev.2

2.2 Please provide an overview of the current organisation of electricity distribution in your country. Is there a single distributing company/body? Are there multiple companies? At national or territorial level?

According to Statistik Austria data (2009), there are 72 companies engaged in energy distribution, operating at the national, provincial and local levels. The by far largest electricity distributing corporation is the ENERGIEALLIANZ Austria EAA (see above). In 2009/10, the EAA sold 18,304 GWh of electricity (of which 2,794 GWh was from EAA’s four fully owned subsidiaries; 1,257 GWh from BEWAG which holds 7% of EAA’s shares; 6,054 GWh from EVN which holds 45% of EAA; and 8,199 GWh from Wien Energie which also holds 45% of EAA).

The distributing companies operating at the provincial level are partially publicly owned. The provincial energy suppliers are: Wien Energie for Vienna; EVN for Lower Austria; BEWAG for Burgenland; Energie Steiermark in Styria; KELAG in Carinthia; Salzburg AG in the province of Salzburg; Energie AG Oberösterreich in Upper Austria; TIWAG in Tyrol; and Illwerke VKW in Vorarlberg. There are many more energy suppliers operating at the communal level (provincial capitals, cities). The Verbund (see above) also operates in electricity distribution at the national level.

2.3 Please indicate the NAME of the three largest distributing companies, the NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES of these companies, and the public or private STATUS of the EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP with their employees.

This information is not available (reasons given above)

2.4 Where there any significant developments/changes since 2008 for a specific company or source of electricity production in numbers of employees or in their public/private status? Was this due to the current economic crisis? Were there any instances of unbundling or mergers? With what consequences in terms of employment and industrial relations?

There were no significant developments and/or changes in employment in the sector since 2008. Employment has remained stable throughout and after the global economic crisis. No major mergers or privatisations have occurred, thus there were no major changes in the status of employees.

3. Industrial relations in the electricity sector: Actors

3.1 Please provide details on the membership in the electricity sector and membership of the top 3 producing and distributing companies in employer’s organisation (see questions 2.1-2.3 above). Please provide information on the name of the trade unions organising in this subsector and the level of their membership, or otherwise provide overall data but please include indications on differences in membership densities across subsectors.

This information is not available (reasons given above)

3.2 To what extent are employees in the different subsectors (fossil/nuclear/RES) covered by trade union representation? Has there been any impact of the crisis on trade union representation?

There is no information available about trade union representation in the different electricity subsectors. The overall trade union density in the sector is estimated to lie between 70 and 80% with considerable variation between the three unions representing workers in the electricity sector. According to the GPA-djp union (more information see below), the density for white-collar workers in the private economy lies at about 55% in 2011; density rates for blue-collar workers and workers employed in municipal energy suppliers are substantially higher (in 2005: 85% and 99%, respectively) . The crisis itself had no noticeable impact on trade union representation and density in the sector; union density rates have generally been decreasing in the last few years, though.

3.3 Have there been major reorganisations/splits/mergers of trade unions or employers organisations in the sector during the last five years?

At the end of the 20th/ beginning of the 21st century, Austria’s trade union structure under the umbrella of the Austrian Trade Union Federation ÖGB has become significantly streamlined within a ten-year period. The number of unions affiliated to the ÖGB was reduced from 14 to seven, mostly due to problems smaller unions had encountered with regards to membership numbers. Thus, by merging with bigger unions (among which were the ones organising electricity workers), resources could be consolidated and their political power maintained. The merging processes concerned all three unions organising and representing employees within the electricity sector with which smaller unions seeked to merge.

On 1 January 2007, the trade union organising white-collar employees in the private economy, the Union of Salaried Employees (GPA) merged with the Printing, Journalism and Paper Union (DJP) to form the newly established GPA-djp union (see AT0603029I). Today, the GPA-djp organises and represents about 260,000 members in total (including inactive, i.e. retired ones), among them all white-collar electricity workers with the exception of those workers employed by larger municipal companies (see below). On 29 June 2009, the former Municipal Employees’ Union (GdG) and Arts, Media, Sports and Liberal Professions Union (KMSfB) merged to found the new GdG-KMSfB union (see AT0806029I) which now represents and organises around 155,000 members, among them electricity workers employed at larger municipal electricity companies (in Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck). The step was due in response to significant membership losses and financial instability of the KMSfB union; in order to secure membership services and a support structure, it merged with the GdG. On 26 November 2009, a merger between the Metalworking, Textiles, Agriculture and Food-processing Union (GMTN) and the Union of Chemical Workers (GdC) took place, thus establishing a new manufacturing trade union called ‘PRO-GE’ (see AT0902029I), which organises and represents blue-collar workers, among them all blue-collar electricity workers with the exception of those represented by GdG-KMSfB (see above).

With regards to the employer organisations, no reorganisations took place during the last five years.

3.4. Have new actors (trade unions or employers organisations) been founded in recent years, especially in the newly evolving RES industries? Or is the industry covered by established actors?

The industry is by and large covered by established actors. As shown above, several reorganisations took place among the affiliate unions of the ÖGB. However, this was not triggered by any developments in the electricity sector but rather due to financial difficulties of small unions. No new trade unions and/or employer organisations were founded. The industry is covered by established actors. As renewable energy is mostly produced by established companies, they are members of established employer organisations. The former Association of Austrian Electricity Companies (VEÖ) was rebranded ‘Austria’s Energy’ or ‘Austria’s Energy Economy’ (both names are used) OEE in 2010 and currently organises and represents over 140 member companies with almost 20,000 employees (thus almost 90% of all sectoral employees). The OEE is a rare example of a voluntary sectoral employer organisation as in Austria, most of the private economy is characterised by companies’ obligatory membership to WKO and its sectoral subunits. The WKO does not represent electricity companies and thus the OEE has been granted the capacity to conclude collective agreements by the Federal Arbitration Board (Bundeseinigungsamt), a joint body established within the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK). The OEE is thus the only employer organisation concluding collective agreements in the sector.

Interest organisations in the scope of renewable energy sources have been established already some time ago (1990s, early 2000’s). The association Photovoltaic Austria (PVA) is a voluntary interest organisation representing around 130 members, among them about 80 companies operating in the photovoltaic industry with about 1,500 employees (data from 2009). The Austrian Wind Energy Association (IG Windkraft) is a voluntary interest organisation for companies operating in wind energy (including suppliers). It organises wind energy producers which together generate about 90% of all domestic electricity produced from wind. No information about the number of members is available.

3.5. Have the established sectoral actors (both trade unions and employer organisations) started any initiative to extend their representation to the new emerging parts of the sector? Please describe such initiatives and their results so far.

No specific initiatives were started targeted towards extending representation to new emerging parts of the sector. The GPA-djp reports that brochures targeted towards recruiting new members were given out, advertising positive outcomes of collective bargaining in the electricity sector. The OEE reports that it regularly gains new members from all subsectors, but the association was not engaged in campaigns.

4. Role of collective bargaining and social dialogue

4.1 Please provide information on the structure of collective bargaining in the electricity sector. Please, briefly mention the main characteristics of collective bargaining:

  • At what level are collective agreements within the subsectors of the electricity sector (traditional providers, newly emerging providers) concluded (company, sectoral level and/or inter-sectoral level)? Is there a difference between the producers and the distributors?
  • Estimate the coverage rate of collective bargaining in terms of companies and employees: are there any differences in coverage across different subsectors of electricity production?

There are five different collective agreements to be found in the sector, two sectoral ones and three agreements concluded at the company level. No difference between producers and distributors are made. The two most important collective agreements are the sectoral agreements signed by the GPA-djp on behalf of white-collar workers (including provisions for employees engaged in electricity trade) and the PRO-GE union on behalf of blue-collar workers and the OEE on behalf of the employers’ side. They cover about 82% of all employees in the sector. Collective bargaining also takes place on behalf of the public utility companies owned by the larger cities of Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck. While the Viennese holding (Holding Wiener Stadtwerke) is entitled to conclude collective agreements, the OEE formally signs the agreements for both the Graz AG Stadtwerke (now under the umbrella of the Holding Graz) and the Innsbrucker Kommunalbetriebe AG, together with subsectoral units of the Federal Economic Chamber (WKO). Collective agreements do not distinguish between subsectors (generation, distribution, transmission, trade) and neither according to energy source. While the two sectoral agreements relate to the electricity sector only, the company agreements cover all public utilities bundled in the respective public companies.

The collective bargaining coverage lies at 100% in Austria. This refers to all private-law employees in the sector which make up the vast majority of workers. Long-term municipal workers with civil servant status (new employees are covered by the respective collective agreements) are covered by specific civil servant regulations and thus exempt from collective bargaining. They are covered by specific civil service regulations instead.

4.2 Please comment on the most recent collective agreements reached at sector level and at company level. Please address the following topics:

  • Pay and working time: level and trends relative to the national average and significant differences across subsectors of the electricity industry.

Pay in the electricity sector is comparatively high compared to other sectors. The minimum wage in the sectoral collective agreement for new white-collar employees in the lowest wage group lies at EUR 1,688 gross a month and in the highest wage group at EUR 5,456.50 a month; in comparison, the respective incomes in the general collective agreement for crafts and trade lie at EUR 1,085.48 a month for new employees in lowest wage group and EUR 3,458.46 in the highest wage group. Collectively agreed pay in the sectoral collective agreement for blue-collar workers lies below the collectively agreed wages for white-collar workers. For new employees of Wien Stadtwerke and Graz Stadtwerke, minimally agreed incomes lie below the wages of the sectoral agreements. Information on minimum wages for workers of Innsbrucker Kommunalbetriebe is not available. Generally speaking, wages in the sector lie at about 180% of the national average (Brandt/Schulten 2007).

Collectively agreed working time lies at 38.5 hours per week in both sectoral collective agreements and in the collective agreement for Innsbrucker Kommunalbetriebe; Wiener Stadtwerke has a collectively agreed working week of 37.5 hours and Graz Stadtwerke of 40 hours (which equals the working hours as laid down by law).

While the collective agreements regulate working hours and pay, additional benefits and supplements are generally regulated in works agreements which have traditionally played an important role in the electricity sector (Brandt et al. 2007: 80).

4.3. Cooperation between the social partners and government

  • Have the government started any social dialogue or social concentration in the electricity sector since 2008? Please illustrate the features and results of any such initiatives.
  • Have bipartite and/or tripartite bodies dealing with specific issues of the electricity industry been created since 2008?
  • Have there been since 2008 any joint initiatives of cooperation between social partners to influence or steer the energy policy developed by the government in your country? Or have such initiatives been taken separately by certain social partner organisations?
  • Have the social partners been involved in the making of the national action plan to reach the 2020 target, or in issues aiming to secure the supply of enough electricity?

The government has not specifically started a social dialogue in the sector since 2008. Also, no formal bipartite or tripartite bodies have been established in the sector since 2008. However, social partners from both sides of industry were involved in the development of the NAP RES and in developing an energy strategy for Austria and have issued statements on planned changes in legislation. Furthermore, the social partners issued a so-called ‘White Book Energy Policy’ in 2009. Cooperation between government and social partners in Austria is generally – and not limited to the electricity sector – based on permanent, but irregular and rather informal consultation and cooperation. The OEE has stated that they are engaged in a dialogue on economic issues in the electricity sector with the government. According to the GPA-djp, bipartite cooperation at the sectoral level on employment issues is usually engaged by the respective trade unions organising and representing employees in the sector.

4.4. Please provide information about the views of the trade unions and employer organisations on the main changes regarding employment and working conditions affecting the sector since 2008 and especially on the impact of the current crisis (for instance on employment trends, quality of jobs, working hours, wages, fixed-term employment, part-time, temporary agency work, participation in training, outsourcing, subcontracting etc.).

Employment in the sector has remained relatively stable throughout and after the crisis. The same holds true for working conditions.

5. Commentary

Ten years after the full liberalisation of the electricity market, no major changes with regards to employment in the sector have recently occurred. The crisis had no noticeable impact on the sector. The number of companies has increased from 644 in 2005 to 775 in 2009; this is mostly due to rather small newly emerging electricity producing companies. Employment in the whole sector during the same time period has decreased by 1,200 employees, lying at about 22,500 employees in 2009. The reduction of workers occurred to the larger part in the subsectors distribution and trade of electricity; in electricity generation, some 1,000 additional workers were employed in 2009 as compared to 2005. In its National Renewable Energy Action Plan, Austria has committed itself to increase its share of renewable energy in the gross final consumption from 24% (base value 2005) to 34% by 2020. This is to be done via a 13% energy reduction to be achieved by 2020 and by increasing the generation of electricity from renewable sources. Currently, this still lies in the hand of large established actors which usually produce electricity from a variety of sources. While generation from hydro-electric sources is already highly developed in Austria, the potential for power production from wind and photovoltaic sources will be realised with significant impacts on employment in the sector and its supplier industries. The sector is covered by two sectoral collective agreements and three company collective agreements, which neither distinguish between production and distribution of electricity, nor by energy source.

Bernadette Allinger, FORBA (Working Life Research Centre)


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Page last updated: 15 November, 2012
About this document
  • ID: AT1202021Q
  • Author: Bernadette Allinger
  • Institution: FORBA (Working Life Research Centre)
  • Country: Austria
  • Language: EN
  • Publication date: 16-11-2012
  • Sector: Energy