Austria: Government reshuffle increases social partner influence

A major reshuffle took place in the Austrian coalition government in August 2014.

It was triggered by the death of the President of the Austrian Parliament, Social Democratic member Barbara Prammer, and the sudden departure of the vice-chancellor and leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Spindelegger. As a result of the reshuffle, the social partners are said to have gained influence in the government.

The new health minister, Sabine Oberhauser, appointed by the Social Democratic Party, comes from the trade union movement and was Vice-President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB).

She will supplement the Minister of Social Affairs, Rudolf Hundstorfer, who was President of ÖGB before joining the government.

The new Minister of Finance, Hans Jorg Schelling, appointed by the Conservative Party, has links to the Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ), the main employers’ organisation in Austria, where he was a vice-president.

The new Vice-Chancellor, Reinhold Mitterlehner, who is also the Minister for Economic Affairs, was the Deputy Secretary-General at WKÖ before joining the government.

Four out of the 14 ministers in the government now have a social partner history. This is a remarkable development given that, only a few years ago, the debate was how to tame the influence of the social partners in the Austrian parliament.

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