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This action, which came as a complete surprise to the 3,100 employees, is
part of the French-owned motor manufacturer's "new industrial strategy" of
concentrating production to cut its financial losses. Michel de Virville,
managing director of Renault, announced the closure adding that:
On 6 February 1997, theSwedish Paper Workers' Union and the Employers'
Federation of Swedish Forest Industries told the conciliators Lars-Gunnar
Albåge and Rune Larson that they accepted their proposal for a national
collective agreement on wages for 1997. There had been two stumbling blocks
in the negotiations: the trade union's claim for a reduction of annual
working time by 25 hours; and the employers' insistence on an agreement that
would run for at least two years. The outcome is an agreement on wages only,
that runs for one year, backdated to 1 January 1997.
The executive committee (sekretariatet) of the Norwegian Confederation of
Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, or LO), the largest union
confederation in Norway, has recommended a programme of action containing a
set of policy principles for the period 1997-2001. The programme encompasses
a wide variety of social and economic issues and is to be adopted at the
confederation's congress on 10-16 May 1997 after a plenary debate.
In January 1997, the European Commission adopted a report on the Promotion of
Participation by Employed Persons in Profits and Enterprise Results,
including equity participation (PEPPER II). The report suggests that
profit-sharing schemes lead to higher productivity, whatever method, model
specification and data are used. The macroeconomic situation was found to
have little effect on government or social partner support for such schemes,
but recent debates relating to enhancing productivity and wage flexibility
are stimulating discussions on proposals. However, in most member states,
trade unions can be expected to oppose the use of financial participation
schemes to promote wage flexibility.
One of the continuing quarrels between the Social Democrat Government and the
largest trade union confederation, the Confederation of Trade Unions for
Blue-Collar Workers (Landsorganisationen or LO), appears to have been settled
by an agreement on the overall features of the unemployment insurance system,
presented on 12 February. Formally, the Government is not involved in the
settlement, but the details of the settlement were presented in a press
release from the Ministry of Labour and in person by the Minister of Labour,
Margareta Winberg, together with LO's vice-president, Wanja Lundby-Wedin.
Figures from the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (
Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon or NHO) show that over 530,000 working days
were lost in industrial conflict during the 1996 wage negotiations. These
figures cover only private sector companies which are members of NHO, but
nearly all industrial conflicts in 1996 took place within this area. This is
the highest number of working days lost since 1986, when Norway experienced a
major lockout in the private sector. In 1996, lawful strikes accounted for
all the lost working days, and the number of working days lost in strikes
alone (ie, excluding lock-outs) is thus the highest since the 1930s. The
major strikes all came in the private sector and among unions affiliated to
the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, or
LO). The Government did not, as often before, intervene to stop strikes with
compulsory arbitration. Three strikes accounted for the majority of lost
working days. These came in the metal industry, the hotel and restaurant
industry and in the electrical installation industry.
At its plenary session of 13-17 January 1997, the European Parliament debated
two important measures relating to employee consultation in European
companies. After the European Works Councils (EWCs) Directive was passed in
1994, the Commission published a Communication on the future of employee
consultation in November 1995, in order to revive a legislative issue which
has been under discussion in various forms for over 15 years. Its aim was to
explore whether the model used for determining the structure and operation of
EWCs could be used in a wider context as a basis for making progress with the
long-delayed European Company Statute.
1997's collective bargaining in the private sector is concentrating on three
main issues: 100% wage compensation during maternity leave; further
negotiations over the pension scheme initiated in 1991; and a limited wage
increase to allow for inflation. The social partners in the different
bargaining areas are largely in agreement on the content of the new
collective agreements, but the central social partner organisations - the
Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and the Danish Employers'
Confederation (DA) - still cannot agree whether the new collective agreements
should be of two or three years' duration.
As the legislation regulating the postal delivery monopoly will expire by the
end of 1997, on 18 February Germany's governing coalition parties proposed a
new law which would limit the exclusive licence of Deutsche Post AG, the
national postal service, to handling letters weighting under 100g, and this
only until the end of 2002. According to the Ministry responsible, this
proposal would reduce Deutsche Post's current monopoly to 87% of the standard
letter market. The proposed new law would also open completely the bulk mail
market to licensed competitors from 1 January 1998.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) launched its campaign to put workers' rights
at the centre of the general election on 14 February 1997. The campaign,
which will cost GBP 1 million, includes newspaper and cinema ads, billboards