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In recent years there has been increasing public concern over what is widely
viewed as the spiralling remuneration of company directors. At a time when
companies are keen to promote pay schemes based on performance, too often the
links between directors' pay and performance are viewed as non-existent. In a
report on director's remuneration publicised in March 1997, the IOD is keen
to set the record straight. It argues that, although it recognises that
directors' pay in the largest companies has been on average high, it has been
relatively modest for those directors who work for small to medium-sized
enterprises. In fact, the median pay increase for this group of directors in
1996 was 4%, the equivalent of the increase in average earnings for all
employees in that year.
Negotiations to revise the important collective agreement in Portugal's
banking sector are deadlocked. The industry's largest trade union will soon
hold its elections, but its socialist members are divided, while substantial
workforce reductions have been announced for the coming years.
The European Commission has recently published its report on progress made in
the implementation of equitable wage policies since 1993. The aim of
providing all employees with an equitable wage was enshrined in the Charter
of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, which was adopted by 11 member
states (with the exception of the UK) in 1989. In accordance with the 1989
social Action Programme, the Commission published an Opinion in 1993, which
stated that the pursuit of an equitable wage must be seen as part of the
general drive to achieve higher productivity and employment creation, and to
foster good relations between the two sides of industry. The member states
were encouraged to give substance to their commitment made in adopting the
Social Charter, by working towards the establishment of an equitable wages
policy. This was to be achieved through greater labour market transparency
with regard to wages. The social partners were also called upon to contribute
to the achievement of this aim.
On Sunday 2 February 1997, a so-called "multicoloured march for jobs" drew
about 50,000 people from all over Belgium to the streets of Clabecq, a small
industrial town on the borders of the provinces of Brabant and Hainaut.
February 1997 saw a major strike in Spain's road transport sector. The
dispute was well supported, mainly in the north of the country, but was
called off without winning many concessions from the Government.
In a recent press interview, Padraig Flynn, the European commissioner
responsible for industrial relations and social affairs, expressed his unease
at press reports that the social partners' negotiations on part-time work
were heading for collapse, and stated that he remained hopeful of a positive
outcome. Senior trade union negotiator and deputy general secretary of the
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Jean Lapeyre, also stated that he
remained convinced that the negotiations could succeed. He stressed, however,
that if part-time work was to be made more attractive and acceptable for
workers, assurance of "decent social protection" had to be offered.
It is expected that the fate of the Forges de Clabecq steelworks will be
sealed on 15 June 1997. However, whatever the outcome of the recovery
operation by the Swiss-Italian industrial concern, Duferco, something will
have changed in this Belgian enterprise located some 15 miles from Brussels
in the province of Brabant. Beyond the event in itself - the closure of a
firm leading to the loss of 1,800 jobs - which has not itself been
exceptional over the last few months in Belgium, it is the style of activity
undertaken by the Forges de Clabecq union delegation  that has revealed a
new union climate.
Late in 1996, Parliament passed legislation providing for changes in the
Employment Security Act that aroused the anger of the trade unions. Although
most of the new provisions apply from 1 January 1997, the most controversial
modification, in Section 2 of the Act, will not come into force until 1 July.
This will give trade unions and employers more time to adapt to the new rule
in the legislation which deals with the level of central bargaining and
The Employment and Labour Market Committee (ELC), established by a Council
Decision on 20 December 1996, held its inaugural meeting in Brussels on 29
January 1997. The ELC was created in response to a request by the European
Council for the setting up of a stable structure to support the work of the
Labour and Social Affairs Council in employment-related matters. This area
has taken on a new dimension in the context of the" European employment
strategy" outlined at the European Council in Essen in December 1994. The ELC
is expected to improve the balance between employment, on the one hand, and
economic and monetary issues, on the other hand, in the European debate. The
new Committee will fulfil a similar role to that of the Economic Policy
Committee which provides advice to the Economics and Financial Affairs