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Nurses had threatened industrial action on 10 February 1997 in pursuit of a
claim for a major overhaul in their pay structures and an improved early
retirement scheme. However, the action was called off when the nurses
accepted an IEP 85 million formula drawn up by the Labour Court, which
includes the creation of a commission which will examine a range of issues
related to the nursing profession. Four trade unions representing over 26,000
nurses were involved in the dispute, the largest being the 16,000-strong
Irish Nurses Organisation (INO).
On 31 January 1997, the Second National Agreement on Temporary Employment
Agencies was signed. This is the second agreement reached in this sector
since the activity of temporary employment agencies (TEAs) in Spain was
approved in 1994. It will remain in force until 31 December 1999.
Telecom Eireann's plan to introduce personal contracts for 300 of its
managers who report directly to senior executives must be seen in the context
of the company's effort to implement a major programme of change to meet the
requirements of EU-driven deregulation requirements. A Telecom redundancy
package was also reactivated recently, one of several in recent years, as the
company seeks to reduce costs. It is also to enter talks with the union
representing general workers in Telecom, the Communications Workers Union, on
a proposed IEP 110 million cost savings plan.
Industrial action has accompanied trade unions' pay demands in Spain's public
administration since late 1996, and the threat of further action has been
made if negotiations are not started immediately.
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.
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
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.