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Following the settlement of the public service nurses pay dispute (IE9702104N
), health workers, prisons officers, police and other public service
groups have been seeking follow-on increases based on parity claims - all of
which relate to the settlement secured by Ireland's 25,000 nurses.
In a previous EIRO review of the industrial relations consequences of the new
Labour Government (UK9704125F ) it was suggested that it was unlikely that
the Government would produce an all-embracing employment bill in its first
term of office, and this has proved correct. However, the social partners
were still relatively pleased with announcements made on measures to tackle
unemployment and low pay.
On 22 April 1997 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a judgment
stating that some provisions of the German Civil Law (Bürgerliches
Gesetzbuch,BGB) as well as the German Labour Court Law
(Arbeitsgerichtsgesetz, ArbGG) offend against the "Council Directive on the
implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as
regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion and working
conditions" (76/207/EEC). The Directive which was adopted by the Council of
Ministers on 9 February 1976 proclaimed that the Member States shall put into
effect the "principle of equal treatment" (§ 1) which means "that there
shall be no discrimination whatsoever on grounds of sex either directly or
indirectly" (§ 2).
The negotiating teams representing the Union of Industrial and Employers'
Confederations of Europe (UNICE), the European Trade Union Confederation
(ETUC) and the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and
of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) reached a draft framework
agreement on part-time work in the evening of 14 May 1997.
At the beginning of May 1997, the State Prosecutor's consultative committee
issued a report questioning the legality of the provision of a state
guarantee for a bank loan made to the General Workers' Union (União Geral
dos Trabalhadores, UGT). A final decision on whether to take legal action to
ascertain the legality of the action is now expected from the State
In what legal experts in Ireland have highlighted as a landmark case on the
issue of indirect sex discrimination, Ireland's Supreme Court has asserted
the primacy of EU law over domestic law. Mary Honan, a legal expert with the
Employment Equality Agency said that the decision also established the
correct legal framework for establishing unlawful indirect discrimination.
Part-time workers have traditionally not been allowed into the same
occupational pension schemes as full-time workers, but because there are far
more women than men among part-timers the practice was challenged on the
grounds of sex discrimination through the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In
1994, the ECJ ruled in a set of linked cases that the practice did amount to
sex discrimination. The judgment was not welcomed by the then Conservative
Government, so the Trades Union Congress (TUC) advised qualifying individuals
that they should register their cases with industrial tribunals. After a
number of test cases in the UK tribunals, it was ruled that part-timers who
had been denied access to occupational pension schemes could not claim
backdated pension rights any further back that two years prior to the ECJ's
ruling - that is, 1992. After appeals were turned down, the cases are still
waiting to be heard by the House of Lords.
On 25 April 1997, the Saxon metalworking employers' association
(Arbeitgeberverband der Sächsischen Metall- und Elektroindustrie, VSME) and
the metalworkers' trade union, IG Metall, signed new collective agreements
for the 87,000 employees in the Saxon metal industry. The agreements include
a new agreement on wages and salaries, new framework agreements for white-
and blue-collar workers, and a new agreement to secure employment
(Beschäftigungssicherungstarifvertrag). The agreements mainly follow the
pattern of the agreements which have already been agreed in other regions of
eastern Germany, and conclude the 1997 collective bargaining round in east