14 May 2006
On 1 January 2006, Section 34a of the Labour Market Service Act (/Arbeitsmarktservicegesetz/, AMSG), which was passed by parliament in the autumn of 2005, came into force. The new regulation enables both employers and employees to avail of subsidised wages in low-wage sectors, and aims to boost employment, particularly in light of Austria’s steadily increasing unemployment levels in recent years (*AT0509202N* ). The reasoning behind the new legislation is that vacant posts, which cannot be filled because of extremely low pay levels, should be made more attractive to people who are long-term unemployed, by subsidising their wages using funds of the Labour Market Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS ). Such low-wage jobs are typically part time and often entail commercial, basic office and cleaning activities.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/subsidised-wageto-combat-unemployment  http://www.ams.or.at/neu/
09 May 2006
According to a joint press release on 14 March 2006, the Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA ) and the Printing, Journalism and Paper Union (Gewerkschaft Druck, Journalismus, Papier, DJP ) plan to merge their organisations during 2006. The acronym of the new trade union will be GPA-DJP. GPA, which currently has about 276,000 members, and the much smaller DJP, with approximately 17,000 members, will jointly cover a total of about 293,000 members. This merger will further strengthen GPA’s position as the largest and probably most powerful affiliate of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB ).  http://www.gpa.at/  http://www.dup.or.at/  http://www.oegb.at/
10 March 2006
On 1 January 2006, the 2005 Household Service Cheque Act (Dienstleistungsscheckgesetz, DLSG) came into effect, which enables people using household services to pay for them with a special cheque (including injuries insurance contributions) instead of in cash. In practice, this means that people using such services (ie the 'quasi-employers') have to buy 'household service cheques' prior to engaging a household worker. By paying for the service with the cheque, the (quasi-)employer has fulfilled all social insurance obligations on behalf of the worker who - for his or her part - has to submit all the cheques received for the work at the end of the subsequent month to the Insurance Association for Railway and Mining Workers (Versicherungsanstalt für Eisenbahnen und Bergbau, VAEB). The VAEB is in charge of administering the new scheme, which includes the conversion of the submitted cheques into cash to the benefit of the household workers. The cheques are available for sale at post offices (at a fixed value of EUR 5 or EUR 10), at tobacconists’ shops and directly at the offices of the VAEB (in these cases at any value demanded by the employer). For the employer, the purchasing price of the cheque includes 1.4% injuries insurance contributions and small additional administration fees. When handing over the cheque to the household worker, only the names and the social insurance identification numbers of both parties concerned have to be filled in, as well as the working day the cheque refers to.
05 February 2006
According to figures released by the General Accidents Insurance Corporation (Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt, AUVA ), the number of workplace accidents in Austria remained almost unchanged during the period 2004-2005, with 0.1% up to a total of 120,271 cases. Notably, these numbers refer to a broad concept of work accident, also including the so-called petty accidents, which do not result in any absence of work, and accidents while commuting (to or from work), which account for some 10-12,000 cases per year. Moreover, these figures also include accidents involving self-employed people (AT9707126N ), of which there are in between 3,000 and 3,500 each year. A more detailed view, however, shows that the number of fatal accidents decreased considerably in the 2004-2005 period, 7.2% down to 219 in total. Despite this positive development, AUVA’s general director, Helmut Pichler, cannot identify any long-term trend, since the 2005 change in the number of fatal accidents lies, he stated, within the statistical range of variations. In order to have the numbers of workplace accidents effectively dropped for a lasting period, AUVA plans to join a National Action Plan (NAP) for Accident Prevention drawn up and implemented in 2004 by the Federal Ministry for Health Affairs and Women. This NAP includes - apart from working life - all spheres of life; its aim is to prevent 2,500 fatal accidents by 2010.  http://www.auva.at/  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/work-accidents-down-in-1996
24 January 2006
On 12 January 2006, the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Alliance for the Future of Austria (Bündnis Zukunft Österreich, BZÖ) agreed on the partial privatisation of the Austrian Post Company (Österreichische Post AG). The cabinet empowered the state public holding company (Österreichische Industrieholding AG, ÖIAG) to sell off (ie privatise) up to 49% of its state shares in Österreichische Post - which is currently entirely state-owned - on the stock exchange in 2006. The ÖIAG was initially established by law as a holding concern to administer and manage the companies completely or partially owned by the state. However, in the mid-1990s, this institution changed from an operating concern holding a set of shares in state-owned companies to an executive privatisation agency, whose main role is to carry out the privatisation of all these firms on behalf of the government (AT0312204F ).  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/steel-producers-fully-privatised
10 January 2006
On 7 December 2005, the Supreme Court of Justice (Oberster Gerichtshof, OGH) formally terminated a pending conflict over the service regulations of Austria’s largest bank institute, the Bank Austria-Creditanstalt (BA-CA), by pronouncing its decision in favour of the employer’s side.
09 January 2006
At the beginning of December 2005, state secretary Alfred Finz of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) announced the government’s willingness to abolish the traditional public employment relationship of career public servants (Beamte). According to Mr Finz, the government plans to present a draft bill for a Federal Public Employees Act (Bundesmitarbeitergesetz) early in 2006. This draft will provide for only a single, uniform type of employment relationship between public employees and their employer. Thus, the current two-tier system in the civil service, which is based on a differentiation between career public servants and 'contract public employees' (Vertragsbedienstete) would be abolished (see below).
07 December 2005
On 24 November 2005, the general assembly of the Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) adopted an agreement on further reform steps in respect of the Chamber which had been reached by the body’s leadership a few days before. Interestingly, all competing factions (which are represented within the WKÖ bodies) affiliated to one of the political parties in parliament - except for the faction affiliated to the Green Party (Die Grünen, GRÜNE) - voted in favour of the draft reform programme.
28 November 2005
At the beginning of November 2005, the conservative-populist coalition government and the management of the state-owned Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) launched a debate over possible changes to the railworkers’ current statutory 'service regulations'. At present, more than 80% of ÖBB employees are career public servants (Beamte) enjoying permanent tenure that carries absolute protection against dismissal. The Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Infrastructure (including transport affairs), Hubert Gorbach, announced the government’s willingness to introduce a Federal Railways Service Regulations Act (ÖBB-Dienstrechtsgesetz) in order to relax the railworkers’ current protection against dismissal. Furthermore, the government aims to restrict by law the current special ÖBB early retirement scheme, which is laid down in the Federal Railways Pensions Act (Bundesbahnpensionsgesetz, BB-PG). This enables the company to pension off employees early for solely business reasons, without any requirement for a medical certificate (AT0308202F ). According to the minister, the relevant draft legislation should be pushed through parliament within the next months. The background is the perceived poor financial performance of the ÖBB.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/controversy-over-planned-reduction-in-railway-workforce
06 November 2005
A study carried out by the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK ) in September 2005 underlines the continuing predominance of men within the governing bodies of Austria’s enterprises. Accordingly, 45 out of 79 companies listed on the Viennese stock exchange have management and supervisory boards composed exclusively of men. Only 25 out of 540 mandates for the supervisory boards are held by women (ie 4.6%), and only 7 out of 230 management board members are females (ie 3%). Women’s top-level representation in Austria’s businesses thus records an even worse situation compared with the anyhow extremely low numbers at European Union (EU) level (recording a women’s share of 7.3% in supervisory boards).  http://wien.arbeiterkammer.at/