As described in connection with the collective bargaining system, bargaining policy in Austria is focused on the industry or sectoral level. In principle it is also possible for central, i.e. cross-sector, agreements to be concluded, since all of the cross-sector (peak) social partner organizations (BAK, ÖGB, VÖI and WKÖ) possess the capacity to conclude collective agreements, although only the ÖGB and the WKÖ and their respective member organizations at sectoral level engage in bargaining, since the BAK and the VÖI waive their right to do so. Owing to the comprehensive membership domains of the ÖGB and WKÖ, any agreements concluded directly between these two organizations themselves, called national general agreements (Generalkollektivverträge), cover almost the whole of the private sector, but in practice they are very rare and concluded only on particularly important issues (e.g. in 1969 on the reduction of the working week to 40 hours). In dynamic terms, bargaining policy has been characterized by a progressive process of decentralization. During the immediate postwar years of the Second Republic pay policy was subject to predominantly central control: over the period 1947-51 there were five central agreements between the social partners on pay and prices. This was followed by a shift in bargaining activity to the sectoral or industry level, although by setting up the Parity Commission for Pay and Prices (and its two subcommittees) in 1957 the central organizations retained a co-ordination function over the bargaining parties at sectoral level with respect to incomes policy, which was exercised in response to inflationary tendencies. Since the early 1980s there has been a further shift in the direction of decentralization in that this cross-sector co-ordination of bargaining policy by the Parity Commission has been replaced by the pattern-setting role played by the metal industry (see pay framework-setting). And from the mid-1980s onwards there has been a further step towards decentralization with sectoral agreements on shorter and more flexible working hours leaving their detailed regulation to management and works councils at company level by way of delegation clauses. From 1993 onwards the bargaining parties in the metal industry have also agreed on delegation clauses leaving management and works councils to negotiate company-specific arrangements on pay flexibility. All in all, this process can be described as one of organized decentralization: the bargaining parties at sectoral level delegate to management and works council the regulation of certain matters by works agreement, while at the same time retaining control by virtue of the fact that their sectoral agreements lay down a binding framework precisely defining the permitted scope of such company-level bargaining.

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.