21 June 2004
The Chambers of Labour (Arbeiterkammern, AK), alongside the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB), represent labour within the Austrian system of social partnership. Unlike ÖGB, membership of which is voluntary, AK is an obligatory interest representation body. Accordingly, all employees covered by the AK’s legally demarcated membership domain, both blue-collar and white-collar, must belong to the AK. This obligation embraces all employees, apprentices, people on maternity/paternity leave and unemployed people (AT0004218F ), with the exception of two distinct groups of excluded employees: executive staff (ie managers equipped with the power to employ people); and employees in most parts of the public sector (except for railway and postal service employees, who do belong to the AK’s membership domain). Present total membership is about 2.6 million. The Chambers also represent the interests of retired employees.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined/chambers-of-labour-under-renewed-discussion
20 June 2004
In March 2004, the EIRO national centres in 24 European countries were asked, in response to a questionnaire, to give a brief overview of their country's system for dealing with individual labour/employment disputes through the courts, along with data on: the volume of cases; the costs; the timeframe; alternatives to going to court; and any current debate on these issues. The Austrian responses are set out below (along with the questions asked).
07 June 2004
In October 2001, representatives of Austria’s largest blue- and white-collar unions decided to merge their organisations. Hans Sallmutter, the chair of the Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA), and Rudolf Nürnberger, the chair of the blue-collar Metalworking and Textiles Union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Textil, GMT), announced that a single large union with about half a million members would be established in the coming years (AT0110205N ). Subsequently, three other unions decided to join the planned merger - the Union of Chemical Workers (Gewerkschaft der Chemiearbeiter, GdC), the Printing and Paper Union (Gewerkschaft Druck und Papier, GDP), and the Union of Agricultural, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers (Gewerkschaft Agrar-Nahrung-Genuss, ANG). All five unions are affiliated to the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB).  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/largest-blue-and-white-collar-unions-intend-to-merge
01 June 2004
In line with international developments, Austrian commerce, and in particular the retail sector, has over recent years been faced with intensified competition and new competitive management strategies, caused by the growing internationalisation of the market. This has resulted in a considerable movement towards market concentration, accompanied by pressures for restructuring and deregulation of employment. These developments - which have resulted in industrial disputes, notably over (liberalised) working hours, since the mid-1990s (AT0307201N ) - have, according to commentators, had a problematic impact on the sector’s working conditions, especially as regards job security, quality of work, working hours regulations and remuneration.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/government-proposes-amendments-to-shop-opening-hours-act
12 May 2004
On 24 November 2002, a general elections was held, which had become necessary due to conflicts within the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ). These elections saw the ÖVP emerge as the clear winner. It increased its vote by more than 15 percentage points to 42.3%, thus becoming the largest party in parliament for the first time since 1970 (AT0301204F ). After a three-month period of negotiations with all parties represented in parliament, on 21 February 2003 the ÖVP decided to continue its previous coalition government with the FPÖ, which had lost almost two-thirds of its 2000 vote, receiving only 10.0%.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/2002-annual-review-for-austria
09 May 2004
On 30 April 2004, the management of the Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) and representatives of the Union of Railway Employees (Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner, GdE) agreed new 'service regulations' applying to about 47,000 railway employees. This agreement was concluded under a government threat unilaterally to alter the existing public service employment regulations by law, if the parties failed to reach a settlement by the end of April.
20 April 2004
In March 2003, the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) presented a study of the effects of Austria’s childcare benefit scheme (Kinderbetreuungsgeld), conducted by Hedwig Lutz of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, WIFO). The study’s findings question the scheme’s effectiveness in terms of women’s chances to participate in the labour market after taking parental leave (AT0304201N ). One year later, at the end of March 2004, AK presented a more differentiated, updated follow-up study on the same issue, drawn up by the same author on behalf of AK ('Wiedereinstieg und Beschäftigung von Frauen mit Kleinkindern'). In general, this updated research, which is based on more reliable empirical data than the 'pioneer' study, corroborates the results of the latter, with slight modifications in detail.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/controversy-over-childcare-benefit
05 April 2004
In mid-March 2004, the Minister of Economy and Labour Affairs, Martin Bartenstein, presented a draft bill on 'labour market reform' (Arbeitsmarktreformgesetz). This includes a proposal which provides for the possibility for all categories of self-employed people to opt for voluntary insurance against the risk of unemployment. According to the draft, from 1 January 2005 all 340,000 or so self-employed people in Austria would be entitled voluntarily to contribute some 6% of their gross income to the unemployment insurance fund, which would (after a minimum one-year period of contributions) grant them eligibility to receive unemployment benefit on losing their jobs.
28 March 2004
Austria has a long tradition of a relatively high level of seasonal labour, especially in 'typically' seasonal branches such as tourism and agriculture. Seasonal labour has always been characterised by a disproportionately high share of foreign workers. The legal status of foreign seasonal workers differs considerably from that of all other resident or foreign employees working in Austria, in particular in terms of labour law and security of residence. Seasonal labour is particularly important for employers that require short-term labour due to fluctuations in demand. This means that seasonal workers may be employed during short-term periods of higher demand for labour. When the employment relationship comes to an end, the foreign worker must subsequently leave the country.
07 March 2004
On 24 February 2004, the cabinet council agreed a transitional regulation which aims to ensure a medium-term continuation of the current restrictions on entry to the Austrian labour market for workers from the EU acceding countries in central and eastern Europe, during the first years of their EU membership. In the face of the forthcoming accession of 10 new EU Member States on 1 May 2004, the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) has drawn up a regulation which seeks to continue the present restrictive access regime for entry to the Austrian labour market for workers from outside the current European Economic Area (EEA) (AT9703104F ). In more detail, the government plans to enact an EU Enlargement Adaptation Act (EU Erweiterungs-Anpassungsgesetz) which will prohibit employees from most of the new EU Member States from entering Austria’s labour market without restriction from 1 May 2004, for a transitional period of up to seven years (as permitted under arrangements agreed by the EU and new Member States in central and eastern Europe). Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel of the ÖVP stated that this regulation will, for the next few years, protect resident employees from cheaper (ie low-wage) foreign competitors.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined-law-and-regulation-labour-market-social-policies/the-legal-position-of-foreign-nationals