Provincial agreements in tourism

Having failed to secure a national agreement for waged workers, the social partners in Austria's tourism industry are now proceeding province by province. Three provincial deals had already been signed by the end of June 1997, while three more were expected soon. In the remaining three provinces, trade unions were threatening action for late July. A national collective agreement for salaried workers has also been signed.

On 8 April 1997 negotiations over this year's national collective agreement covering all wage workers in hotels and restaurants ended without agreement, and the negotiators have not met formally since. The Hotel, Restaurant, Personal Services Workers Trade Union (Gewerkschaft Hotel Gastgewerbe Persönlicher Dienst, HGPD) staged some protests in May, but essentially focused on a province-by-province strategy of securing collective agreements.

The first agreement was achieved in Vienna on 14 May, covering 24,000 employees. Backdated to 1 May, workers (including apprentices) have received a 2.2% increase in the minimum wage. Allowances, supplements and other additional payments were raised by ATS 10 each. From 1 January 1998, minimum wages will be ATS 12,000 gross per month rising to ATS 12,100 from 1 May 1998. In return, the trade union conceded the working time limits permitted by the new Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, AZG) effective since 1 May (AT9702102F), of 10 hours per day, if work is limited to four consecutive days per week. The union further conceded a lengthening of the period within which weekly working time can exceed 40 hours from four weeks to 13. During this period, a maximum of 48 hours within a four-day working week will be allowed and will not attract an overtime premium. There is no strict rule that hours have to average out to 40 within the 13 weeks, but all hours exceeding an average of 40 must be commuted into equivalent time off after the 13-week period. The beginning and the end of the 13-week period, or any such period exceeding four weeks, must be set down in writing. The agreement expires on 30 April 1998.

Almost identical agreements were signed on 28 May for the 16,000 waged employees in the province of Lower Austria (which surrounds Vienna) and on 25 June for the 6,600 waged employees in the westernmost province of Vorarlberg. These three provinces together account for about 40% of all wage workers in tourism. Tyrol (which has more tourist beds than Greece) is expected to sign on 2 July, with Upper Austria to follow soon and Styria somewhat later. It is expected that by the last week of July only three provinces will be left without collective agreements: Salzburg, Carinthia, and Burgenland. Here, the HGPD is expected to return to its "needles-and-pins" campaign, involving holding information meetings in establishments, distributing leaflets, mostly among its members, and using placards and other means to inform incoming tourists about labour relations, especially wages, in hotels and restaurants (as it did recently at a busy border crossing in Tyrol). The HGPD believes that the reason for the perceived intransigence of employers, especially in Salzburg and Carinthia, is competition between the two province's chief negotiators for the succession to a federal position.

For the 18,000 salaried employees in the whole country's tourism industry, a minimum salary rise from 1 June of 2.1%, or at least ATS 350 per month, was negotiated by the Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA). For the month of May 1997 a one-off additional payment of ATS 300 was agreed. Other clauses were changed in accordance with those for waged workers. This agreement also expires on 30 April 1998.

Meanwhile the industry's position is going from bad to worse (AT9705111F), and turnover this year is expected to be 3% less than last year. In 46% of hotels, management expects turnover to decline, while almost a quarter of hotels are likely to reduce staff. Among Austrian industries, tourism stands second in the number of bankruptcies. With 1.2 million beds, it has an accumulated debt of ATS 120,000 million. Further, the new agreements include no measures to reduce the ATS 3,000 million annual deficit the industry is causing the unemployment insurance system.

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