1999 Annual Review Comparative Overview
Following the launch of the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the euro single currency on 1 January 1999, the economic performance of EU Member States is being kept within the parameters set by the Stability Pact. Thus, the economies of the 11 "euro-zone" countries are falling into step with each other and the four countries outside the euro-zone (Denmark, Greece, Sweden and the UK) are following a policy of pegging their economic performance to the euro-zone countries.
Economic growth slowed slightly across most of western Europe in 1999, with the annual rate of GDP growth standing at 2.3% for the whole EU (and the euro-zone) in the third quarter of 1999, compared with 2.5% (2.6% for the euro-zone) a year earlier. Notable increases in GDP were recorded in France (3.0% in the year to the third quarter of 1999), Spain (3.7%), the Netherlands (4.0%), Sweden (3.5%) and especially Ireland (8.4%), where the economic boom continues virtually unabated. However, in all these cases, apart from the Netherlands and Sweden, the 1999 increases were below the 1998 level. Relatively major falls in growth figures were recorded in Austria, Denmark, Finland and Norway.
Inflation remained low across the EU, with an average rate of 1.8% over the year to January 2000, according to Eurostat. According to information relating to the fourth quarter of 1999, inflation fell during the year in many countries, such as the UK (from 3.2% in 1998 to 1.3% in 1999), Germany (from 1.0% to 0.6%) and Finland (from 1.4% to 1.0%). However, actual inflation during 1999 in Spain, at 2.9%, was significantly higher than official forecasts of 1.8%. In France, inflation rose slightly, from 0.7% in 1998 to 0.9% in 1999.
Unemployment in the EU remains higher than political leaders would wish, although improvements in labour market performance in some countries were experienced during 1999. The average unemployment rate was 8.8% in the EU as at December 1999 and 9.6% in the euro-zone, according to Eurostat. In Sweden, unemployment fell to 6.6% in 1999 from 7.5% in 1998 and 9.1% the year before. However, there are still significant differences between the labour market performances of individual Member States. Spain is still experiencing high unemployment, at 15% in 1999. However, high unemployment levels in France seem to be noticeably falling, from 12.6% in 1997 to 11.8% in 1998 and 10.4% in 1999. Germany is still experiencing labour market difficulties in the east, which have a knock-on effect across the whole economy. Thus, unemployment in Germany is still relatively high, at 9% in 1999, although this represents a fall compared with figures of 9.4% in 1998 and 9.8% in 1997. At the other end of the spectrum, unemployment is significantly below the EU average in Luxembourg, at 2.6% as at the end of November 1999, the Netherlands at 2.6%, Norway at 3.2% and Austria at 4.2%.
Arguably the most high-profile political event in the EU during 1999 was the October general election in Austria, and its subsequent outcome. The election resulted in heavy losses of support for the social democrat/conservative SPÖ/ÖVP coalition and gains for the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). A hiatus of some four months followed, during which the SPÖ and the ÖVP tried and failed to conclude a coalition agreement. Following the collapse of these talks in January 2000, the ÖVP entered into talks with the FPÖ and agreed on a coalition text in early February. The resulting new right-wing coalition government has attracted considerable controversy, both within Austria and amongst its fellow EU Member States, which are uncomfortable about their relations with a government which contains members of a far-right political party (AT0002212F).
General elections also took place in Finland, where the existing "rainbow" coalition government was re-elected in March 1999 (FI9904101F). In Belgium, elections were held at both the federal and regional level in June 1999. The federal elections resulted in a loss of support for the christian democrat and socialist parties, which up until then had formed the coalition government. Subsequently, a "rainbow" coalition made up of liberals, socialists and environmentalists was formed. The federal results were mirrored at regional level, with the christian democrat and socialist parties losing support to the liberals and environmentalists.
General elections were held in June 1999 in Luxembourg (LU9909111N), resulting in the formation of a new coalition government between the Social Christian Party (CSV) and the Democratic Party (DV). This replaces the previous coalition between the CSV and the Socialist Party (LSAP), which had been in office for 15 years.
1999 also saw a general election in Portugal, with the Socialist Party remaining in government, but losing its parliamentary majority.
In Spain, municipal and regional elections took place during 1999 throughout the whole country, resulting in gains for the Socialist Party. Regional elections also took place in Germany, resulting in losses for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which, together with the Greens, forms the current "red/green" coalition government. The SPD losses at regional level were to the gain of the Christian Democrat Party (CDU), together with its Bavarian associated party, the CSU. However, although these elections represented a significant blow for the SPD, opinion polls in late 1999 showed that this party appeared to be regaining public support.
In Italy, the coalition government fell in December 1999 following a political crisis caused by disagreement amongst the coalition parties. However, a new centre-left coalition government, made up of seven parties was formed a few days later. The new government is still headed by Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, but has a reduced parliamentary majority.
|Austria||General election in October 1999 resulted in heavy loss of support for the coalition government made up of the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ) and the christian democratic Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and gains for the far-right Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ). Following the breakdown of coalition talks between the SPÖ and the ÖVP in January 2000, the ÖVP and FPÖ concluded a coalition agreement in February 2000. This government is seen as controversial internationally, with many EU Member State governments reluctant to continue international relations with a government which contains a far-right element.|
|Belgium||Elections were held at federal and regional level in June 1999. At the federal level, the christian democrat parties (Christelijke Volkspartij, CVP, and Parti Social Chrétien, PSC) and socialist parties (Parti Socialiste, PS, and Socialistiche Partij, SP), which made up the coalition government, sustained losses of support. A "rainbow" coalition of liberals, socialists and environmentalists was subsequently formed. These results were mirrored at regional level, with the socialists and christian democrats losing support to the liberals and environmentalists.|
|Denmark||The coalition government elected in March 1998 and consisting of the Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiet) and the Social Liberal Party (Det Radikale Venstre) managed to remain in office during 1999 despite crises over issues such as the reform of the voluntary early retirement scheme (DK9902111N). The next election is scheduled for 2002.|
|Finland||A general election was held in March 1999 and resulted in the re-election of the "rainbow" coalition government made up of the Social Democratic Party (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue), the conservative National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomus), the Left-Wing Alliance (Vasemmistoliito), the Greens (Vihrea liitto) and the Swedish People's Party (Svenska folkpartiet).|
|France||The "cohabitation" between the conservative President Jacques Chirac and the left-wing coalition government led by socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin continued during 1999. However, the political landscape on the right wing changed somewhat during 1999, due to the elections to the European Parliament which saw the emergence of a "sovereignist" movement opposed to the Amsterdam Treaty - the Rally of the French People (Rassemblement du Peuple Français, RPF)|
|Germany||The "red-green" coalition government, composed of the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) and Alliance 90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), which was elected in September 1998, ran into considerable difficulties during 1999. All important regional elections were won by the Christian Democratic Party (Christlich Demokratische Union, CDU) and the SPD lost its majority in the Bundesrat, the second legislative chamber. However, opinion polls at the end of 1999 indicated that the government appeared to be regaining popular support.|
|Greece||The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Panelino Socialistiko Kinima, PASOK) continued to hold office during 1999. The next general election is expected in mid-2000.|
|Ireland||The current government, which was elected in June 1997 and consists of a coalition between the majority centrist Fianna Fail party and the small right-of-centre party, the Progressive Democrats (PD s), remained in office during 1999. The next general election is not expected before 2002.|
|Italy||A political crisis in December 1999 led to the fall of the coalition government which consisted of the Ulivo centre-left grouping - which included the Democratic Left (Democratici di Sinistra, Ds) - the centrist Democratic Union for the Republic (Unione Democratica per la Repubblica, Udr) and the Party of Italian Communists (Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, Pdci). A few days later, a new centre-left coalition government, supported by seven parties - Ds, the Italian People's Party (Partito Popolare Italiano, Ppi), the Democrats (Democratici), Udeur, Pdci, the Greens (Verdi) and Rinnovamento- came to power, albeit with a reduced parliamentary majority.|
|Luxembourg||A general election was held on 13 June 1999 which brought to power a new coalition government made up of the Social Christian Party (Chrëschlech Sozial Vollekspartei, CSV) and the Democratic Party (Demokratesch Partei, DP). This replaced the former coalition between the CSV and the Luxembourg Socialist Party (Lëtzebuergesch Sozialistesch Arbechterpartei, LSAP), which had been in office for 15 years.|
|Netherlands||The second "purple" coalition government, made up of the Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid, PvdA), the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD) and the social democratic Democraten 66 (D66), disbanded on 19 May 1999, but the breach was healed over the summer and the coalition was reformed.|
|Norway||The political situation during 1999 was stable. There has been a minority coalition government in office since 1997, comprising the three centre parties: the Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti, KRF); the Liberal Party (Venstre); and the Centre Party (Senterpartiet, SP). The coalition operates on the basis of case-by-case cooperation with the parties to the right and left of centre.|
|Portugal||Elections to the National Assembly were held in 1999. Although the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) won a majority of votes and remained in government, it did not achieve an absolute majority of representatives in the Assembly. Thus, the PS now has 115 seats, with the remaining 115 seats split between four other parties - the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD), the Unitarian Democratic Coalition (Coligaçã o Democrática Unitária) - comprising the Communist Party (Partido Comunista, PCP) and the Greens (Os Verdes) - the People's Party (Partido Popular, PP) and the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda).|
|Spain||The current government, made up of the conservative People's Party (Partido Popular, PP), with support from conservative nationalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country, finishes its term of office in March 2000. During 1999, municipal elections were held in the whole of Spain and autonomous regional elections were held in Catalonia. The Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Españ ol, PSOE) increased its support in both sets of elections.|
|Sweden||The minority Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarepartiet) government elected in September 1998, which governs with the cooperation of the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) and the Green Party (Miljöpartiet de Gröna), continued in office during 1999.|
|United Kingdom||The Labour Party government elected in May 1997 continued in office during 1999. The next general election is due by May 2002 but is widely expected in the spring of 2001. 1999 also saw some devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.|
Collective bargaining developments
1999 saw significant changes in the level at which collective bargaining is carried out in Finland. Here, bargaining in 1999 was covered by national, intersectoral provisions agreed at the beginning of 1998. However, preparations for a further national intersectoral bargaining round, to take place upon the expiry of the 1998/9 agreement in January 2000, fell apart in the autumn of 1999 following the decision by trade unions affiliated to the Central Organisation of Finish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK) not to take part in central talks (FI9910124N). Thus, after four years of regulation by intersectoral agreement, collective bargaining in Finland, at least during 2000, is taking place at sectoral level.
In Ireland, which was also covered by an intersectoral agreement on pay and other matters (Partnership 2000) during 1999, preparations for tripartite talks aimed at concluding a further national deal got underway in the autumn of 1999 and formal talks between employers, unions and the government began in November 1999 (IE9911146F) (A further draft national deal was agreed in February 2000 (IE0002205N), continuing a consecutive tradition of such agreements which dates back to 1987.)
In Italy, a total of 32 sectoral agreements were renewed up to November 1999, out of the 80 major settlements covered by a survey from the Istat statistical office, including the important metalworking agreement (IT9907249F). In Germany, a new agreement in the influential metalworking sector was concluded in February 1999 (DE9903295F), setting the trend for bargaining in most other sectors. Belgium was covered by the first year of a two-year deal concluded at the end of 1998 and the social partners in Norway negotiated an "intermediate" bargaining round in the private sector (NO9904126F) and the public sector (NO9905131F), following the "main" round of 1998. The social partners in Sweden were operating within the framework of three-year sectoral deals, mostly concluded in the spring of 1998. In Greece, the two-year national general collective agreement entered its second year in 1999.
|Austria||1999 round remained dominated by sectoral bargaining, with a focus on pay. Settlements were moderate and some agreements included a "distribution" option, allowing companies to award the pay increase more flexibly.|
|Belgium||Bargaining in 1999 was dominated by sectoral-level accords, within the framework of the two-year intersectoral agreement covering 1999 and 2000.|
|Denmark||Bargaining in 1999 took place in the public sector, the finance sector and the agriculture and forestry sector. The public sector and agriculture/forestry agreements provided for a three-day extension of annual holiday entitlement. Bargaining generally passed off peacefully, in contrast to the widespread strike and imposed settlement in the main DA/LO private sector bargaining area in 1998.|
|Finland||The two-year central incomes policy agreement, covering 1998 and 1999, remained in force during 1999. Under this agreement, a number of small working groups had been set up to examine areas such as working time, equal opportunities and local bargaining. These groups continued their work during the year.|
|France||Bargaining in 1999 focused on the issue of reducing working time, within the framework of the 35-hour week legislation. Bargaining on this issue took place at both sectoral and company level. In many cases, there was a formal link between working time reduction and a reorganisation of working time, including practices such as flexitime, limits on overtime, individual time accounts, additional rest days and part-time working.|
|Germany||The 1999 round, conducted as usual at sectoral level, focused on pay. Increases were relatively high, following the metalworking settlement which provided for an increase of 3.2% plus a further flat-rate one-off 1%. In addition, talks within the tripartite national Alliance for Jobs forum continued during 1999, ending the year with a joint declaration to conduct the 2000 bargaining round in the spirit of a long-term employment-oriented policy.|
|Greece||The national general collective agreement entered its second year in force in 1999. Within this framework, bargaining was carried out at all levels during 1999, with the emphasis on pay and working time - in particular the reduction of working time.|
|Ireland||The national incomes policy agreement, Partnership 2000, remained in force during 1999. It is estimated that over 80% of companies have adhered to its provisions on pay despite the continuing economic boom which has put upward pressure on pay. Partnership 2000 formally expires at national level on 31 March 2000 and the social partners began negotiations for a new accord in November 1999 (reaching a draft agreement in February 2000).|
|Italy||A number of important sectoral agreements were renewed in 1999, including those in metalworking, commerce and banking. Public sector agreements concluded in 1999 included those covering schoolteachers and national health service workers. Although there was pressure from employers to decentralise bargaining, the current two-tier system (sectoral and company level) remained firm during the year.|
|Luxembourg||Pay was the focus of the 1999 bargaining round, with an estimated 100 agreements renewed out of a total of between 250 and 300. The most significant event of the 1999 round was the conclusion of a three-year deal in banking which was subsequently refused registration by the Ministry of Labour on the grounds that the unions which signed it do not have nationally representative status. The unions and employers' association involved have appealed against this decision.|
|Netherlands||The 1999 round was perceived to be relatively difficult, involving the suspension of negotiations more than once in sectors such as construction, metalworking and banking. Tensions were largely caused by increasing labour market shortages, the result of a continuing economic boom. Trade unions pushed for higher wage increases while employers attempted to increase the flexibility of bargaining and pay.|
|Norway||1999 was an "intermediate" bargaining round, in which adjustments were made to the "main" settlement of 1998. The 1999 round focused on pay adjustments for low-paid employees and on continuing vocational training, with few general increases awarded. The joint public committee establishing the basis for 1999's pay round published a report in the spring recommending that pay growth should be kept down to 4.5% in 1999 (including the "carryover" from the 1998 settlements). The next main bargaining round takes place in 2000.|
|Portugal||The 1999 round was relatively stable in terms of the number of collective agreements concluded. However, the proportion of company-level accords rose from 26.4% of the total in 1998 to 30.9% in 1999, whereas the proportion of sectoral-level agreements fell slightly. Pay was one of the main focuses of the 1999 round, with the average increase during the first 11 months of the year estimated at 3.6%.|
|Spain||The bargaining system remained relatively uncoordinated during 1999, despite trade union calls for greater coordination at sectoral level. Bargaining focused on pay - with the main union confederations agreeing a joint position of moderation - employment (conversion of temporary jobs into permanent jobs) and working time (annual reduction and irregular distribution over the year). There was also some activity in the area of job security. Trade unions made demands for increased use of wage revision clauses, following the realisation at the end of the year that actual inflation considerably exceeding forecast inflation in 1999.|
|Sweden||Many sectors remained covered by three-year deals negotiated in 1998, which are not due for renewal until 2001. Nevertheless, there were some agreements in 1999, notably those covering bus drivers, taxi drivers, electricians and the construction sector. Generally, wage drift appears to have been marginal during 1999.|
|United Kingdom||Bargaining in 1999 was, as usual, highly decentralised, with the majority of bargaining carried out at workplace or company level and little multi-employer bargaining, with the exception of the public sector. Above-inflation pay increases were awarded by the government to public sector employees, whereas in the private sector, average earnings rose by more than inflation, at an estimated 4.9%.|
Throughout the EU, there was considerable pressure on wage negotiators to keep pay increases down to moderate levels in 1999 in order to maintain the competitiveness of their country in an international context. There was also an increasing trend for negotiators to aim to keep pay demands, offers and bargaining outcomes within the framework of trends in neighbouring and competitor countries (see below under "The impact of EMU on collective bargaining and industrial relations"). Overall, as indicated by figure 4, there was a degree of moderation of collectively agreed nominal pay increases from 1998 to 1999, with the average collectively agreed increase in the EU plus Norway (as calculated by EIRO - TN0002401U) falling from 3.1% to 2.8%. Taking just the countries of the euro-zone, collectively agreed nominal pay increases in 1999 were lower, at an average of 2.5%, than in the EU/EEA more widely, and converged more. This may be evidence of the effects of EMU. Notable national developments in pay bargaining in 1999 included the following:
- in Germany, which is arguably one of the main motors in terms of European pay trends, trade unions were concerned to win relatively high increases after some years of pay moderation. Following the settlement in the important metalworking industry, which provided for a 3.2% increase plus a further non-consolidated 1% (DE9903295F), most other sectors followed suit and agreed increases of between 2.9% and 3.3% in 1999. The average pay increase in Germany in 1999 is estimated at 3.0%;
- in Austria, which is directly influenced by events in Germany, but enjoys lower rates of inflation, the leading settlement (in metalworking) provided for a 2.4% increase in minimum pay rates (AT9911203N), which is well above Austrian inflation of around 1%. This settlement was emulated in most other industries;
- the 1999 bargaining round in the Netherlands was marked by a number of industrial conflicts, within the context of a booming economy and labour market shortages. Average collectively agreed pay increases in 1999 are estimated at 2.7%, a figure which represents a slight decrease on the 1998 figure of 2.8%;
- in Spain, pay bargaining is based on official inflation forecasts. In 1999, the official inflation forecast of 1.8% severely misjudged actual inflation trends, which resulted in inflation of 2.7% for the year. Consequently, many employees actually experienced a loss of purchasing power, as the average 1999 increase was 2.3%. This development has rekindled the debate over the inclusion of wage revision clauses in collective agreements;
- a similar development took place in Portugal in 1999, where inflation, which was predicted to be 2%, was actually 2.3%. As settlements take forecast inflation as one of their reference points, trade unions claim that employees have been disadvantaged and have demanded extra compensation. Average collectively agreed increases in 1999 were between 3.5% and 5%;
- in the UK, where negotiations take place predominantly at company level, collectively-agreed basic pay rose by an average of 3% during 1999. Average earnings increased by 4.9%. In the public sector, above-inflation awards were implemented by the government (UK9903188F); and
- in France, 1999 was marked by pay moderation, as a variety of agreements were concluded which traded lower increases or pay freezes for job security or job creation, within the context of the government incentives for the introduction of the 35-hour week (see below under "Working time").
A number of countries were covered in 1999 by multi-annual deals concluded in previous years:
- in Ireland, under the terms of the Partnership 2000 national accord agreed at the beginning of 1997 (IE9702103F), pay bargaining was conducted within the framework of increases of 1.5% for the first nine months of 1999 plus 1% for the last three months of 1999 and first three months of 2000. It is estimated that some 88% of companies in Ireland adhered to the terms of Partnership 2000 in 1999, despite a variety of upward pressures on pay, such as the continuing economic boom;
- similarly, Finland was covered by the second year of a two-year central agreement providing for fixed-amount increases in 1999 (FI9801145F). It is estimated that pay rose by an average of 2.6% in 1999, a figure which is made up of a 1.8% increase in collectively agreed pay, in addition to wage drift of 0.8%;
- in Sweden, collective bargaining in 1999 took place within the framework of sectoral three-year deals agreed in the majority of sectors at the beginning of 1998. Estimates for pay growth in 1999 suggest that it will be within the norm of 3% set for the year by these three-year deals;
- Greece too was covered by the second year of a two-year national deal, signed in May 1998 (GR9805171N). Although this agreements sets out minimum increases, actual increases are usually only slightly higher. Figures for 1999 suggest pay increases of 4.1% in current prices; and
- in 1999, Belgium was covered by the first year of an intersectoral agreement concluded at the end of 1998 (BE9811252F). This agreement provides for an explicit link with neighbouring countries, stating that hourly labour costs should not rise any faster than those in Germany, France and the Netherlands and that labour costs relating to full-time workers should not increase by more than a suggested benchmark of 5.9% over the two years of the agreement.
Source: EIRO; * average of 15 countries; ** average of 14 countries
There were few major changes in the basic duration of working time in 1999. As figure 5 indicates, average collectively agreed normal weekly hours (as calculated by EIRO - TN0002402U) stood at 38.6 hours in 1999 - the same level as in 1998. It appears that major working time reductions through collective bargaining stalled across the EU in 1999. However, the issue of the 35-hour working week dominated the debate over working time in a number of EU Member States, with the debate reaching a climax in France. The government's measures to encourage companies to negotiate on the introduction of the 35-hour week during 1999 (FR9806113F), prior to the coming into force of legislation in 2000 (FR0001137F), dominated collective bargaining activity during the year (FR9907100N). At sectoral level, a total of 117 agreements on this subject were concluded in 1999, reflecting unprecedented activity in this area. At company level, agreements were concluded at, for example, the Peugeot Citroën motor manufacturing group (FR9902157N), the state railways organisation SNCF (FR9906193N) and the Paris ian regional transport network RATP (FR9907199N). In total, agreements negotiated by the end of the year covered more than 9 million workers and made a formal link between the establishment of the 35-hour week and the reorganisation of working time, using tools such as flexible working time arrangements, limits on overtime working, individual time savings accounts, additional rest days and part-time working. Although the ultimate aim of the 35-hour week is to stimulate job creation, one incontrovertible effect so far has been the negotiation of a plethora of flexible and innovative working time arrangements.
Developments in France have had a knock-on effect in some other countries, with trade unions especially attempting to stimulate a similar debate in their country. In Greece, this issue was at the forefront of social partner debate throughout much of 1999 (GR9901110N). National-level social partner negotiations on this issue ended inconclusively, although at sector level, agreements in sectors such as banking (GR9906135F), telecommunications and energy included some commitments to introduce a 35-hour week. A draft bill on the introduction of the 35-hour week was discussed in the Greek parliament in 1999, but was not adopted (GR9910154F).
In Italy, the trade unions have been attempting to stimulate debate on the issue for some years, aiming to introduce a model along the lines of the French system. Initiatives at national level were not in evidence in 1999, although a number of sectoral agreements provided for working time reductions, commonly linked to working time flexibility.
In the UK, the debate concerning working time centred on this country's legislation implementing the EU Directive (93/104/EC) on certain aspects of the organisation of working time. The UK legislation came into force on 1 October 1998 (UK9810154F), but was criticised strongly by employers. The UK government therefore proposed amendments which, although bitterly opposed by trade unions (UK9907117N), were implemented in December 1999.
Beyond the duration of weekly working hours, the issue of working time also of course covers matters such as early retirement, part-time work (see below under "New forms of work"), and leave entitlements, and is closely linked to matters such as job security (see below). For example, in 1999, the issue of restricting early retirement was high on the social partners' agenda in countries such as Austria (AT9903135F) Belgium (BE9905271F and BE9905273N), Finland (FI9908114F) and the Netherlands (NL9912175F). By contrast, initiatives to extend early retirement were seen in, for example, the French automobile industry (FR9908103N), while Germany's powerful IG Metall trade union proposed a new form of early retirement at the age of 60 (DE9910217F).
Source: EIRO; * 1998 figure.
The issue of equal opportunities featured in collective bargaining in some Member States during the 1999 round, largely in the form of clauses aiming to promote the employment of women and eliminate discrimination based on gender. In some countries, a designated amount of money was earmarked in bargaining for local distribution amongst low-wage sectors or occupations, which are often traditionally female-dominated.
At national level, the Belgian social partners have, within the framework of the current 1999-2000 national intersectoral agreement (BE9811252F), requested that sectoral job classification systems be fully revised by joint committees in order to eliminate any potential discrimination between men and women. In Finland, the central agreement which expired at the end of 1999 (FI9801145F) contained a variety of equality provisions, relating to issues such as the implementation of the principle of equal pay for equal work, the removal of obstacles to female entrepreneurship and the promotion of the reconciliation of work and family life for male and female employees.
In Spain, special clauses relating to equal opportunities were found in over 14% of agreements concluded at sectoral and company level up to May 1999. These agreements covered over 32% of the workforce. In the UK, where legislation rather than bargaining traditionally sets the context for equal opportunities, the 1999 parental leave Regulations (UK9912144F), which implement the EU Directive (96/34/EC) on parental leave, facilitate collective or "workforce" agreements on this issue. In addition, an innovative agreement concerning the elimination of race discrimination was agreed in the autumn of 1999 at the Ford motor manufacturing company following an employment tribunal case over racial abuse of an Asian employee (UK9911139N). In Italy, within the framework of some sectoral accords, such as that in metalworking, joint committees have been set up to monitor female employment conditions in the sector and to promote campaigns to combat sex discrimination. The Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) and the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) issued a joint declaration to Danish enterprises in 1999 urging them to recruit refugees and immigrants on equal terms with Danish citizens, following the high-profile case of a young Lebanese woman who was refused employment because she wore a headscarf (DK9908141N).
In Portugal, many agreements contain positive action clauses, which aim to promote the employment of women. In addition, the 1999 agreement covering private hospital administration includes a general non-discrimination clause, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Portugal.
Incidences of enhanced pay increases awarded to low-income groups of employees such as women and young people occurred in Austria in 1999, through the "distribution clauses" contained in sectoral agreements. These clauses allow for more flexible pay structures within the overall parameters of the sectoral accord, to be implemented at company level according to the individual situation of the company.
The issue of job security continues to be of paramount importance to employee representatives, in times of business reorganisation and consolidation. In many countries, agreements were concluded at a variety of levels in 1999 providing for job security in return for wage moderation and concessions such as enhanced working time flexibility. Less explicitly, a concern to maintain or increase employment levels can also be said to have informed the general tendency towards pay moderation seen in many countries (see above under "Pay").
In France, a significant number of job security agreements have been concluded at sectoral and company level, under the "defensive" provisions of the first "Aubry law" on the 35-hour week, adopted in 1998. According to estimates from the French Ministry of Labour, as at 28 January 2000, 35-hour week agreements had been concluded at 23,275 companies, covering 2.7 million workers (23% of the workforce). A total of 6% of these agreements are of the "defensive", job-safeguarding variety, and it is estimated that so far a total of 22,276 jobs have been saved.
The number of collectively agreed clauses concerning employment - such as the conversion of temporary jobs into permanent jobs or, less commonly, net job creation or regulating aspects of temporary recruitment - continued to increase in Spain. In the UK, the latest Workplace Employee Relations Survey shows that 8% of private sector and 21% of public sector workplaces are covered by either a job security or "no compulsory redundancy" clause. Employees in almost 40% of workplaces in the financial services sector are covered by such clauses, with job security in this sector being elevated to the main concern of employees and their representatives during the 1990s.
In Germany, job security provisions often take the form of "special clauses" included in some sectoral agreements which allow companies to deviate on a temporary basis from some of the sectorally-agreement provisions, such as Christmas bonus payments or, in some cases, agreed pay increases. These types of clauses are in particular taken up by companies in the eastern part of the country. Not all sectoral agreements provide for such practices however - a 1999 job security deal at the construction group Holzmann (DE0001226F) earned the widespread condemnation of the sectoral employers' organisation by undercutting the sectoral accord. Another notable phenomenon in Germany is the growing number of "employment pacts" concluded at establishment level between management and works council, whereby employees generally make concessions on working conditions, while employers give limited job guarantees (DE9902293F).
At national level in Germany, the tripartite Alliance for Jobs, Training and Competitiveness (Bündnis für Arbeit, Ausbildung und Wettbewerbsfähigkeit) forum focuses specifically on job creation and job security. This forum was established in late 1998 (DE9812286N) in order to devise ways to reduce unemployment and stimulate job creation. During 1999, three top-level meetings of the Alliance took place, along with numerous meetings of its 10 topic-related working groups. One of the main declarations to be issued in 1999 was the July consensus on career training, which aimed to ensure that every young person receives a vocational training place (DE9907219F). It is as yet difficult to quantify the success of this forum in terms of improvements in the labour market. However, it is set to continue its work during 2000 and has recently made more progress in the form of a joint declaration in January 2000 that the 2000 bargaining round should consist of "employment-oriented" wage agreements.
The various bipartite and tripartite employment pacts which exist at regional level in countries such as Germany (DE9905107F) and Spain by and large continued their work in 1999, with a few new additions (ES9903100F).
Training and skills development
Clauses providing for the training and skills development of employees are included in agreements at all levels in many countries, in recognition that employee skills must not become outdated and that commitments on training are one of the issues covered in the EU Employment Guidelines to Member States, implemented through the National Action Plans (NAP s) for employment (EU9909187F) (see below under "National Action Plans for employment").
At national level, in late 1999, the Swedish government presented proposals for a reform of individual skills development (SE0001118N). These proposals will be examined by a commissioner, who is expected to propose a new individual skills development system on the basis of the government's outline. A report on the subject is expected during the spring of 2000, in time for the social partners to incorporate this issue into their 2001 bargaining demands. The Swedish parliament has set aside a specific amount of money for the funding of the new individual skills development system.
The central agreement which was in force in Finland during 1999 contained a commitment to match educational policy to the needs of working life and thus to improve vocational education. Within this framework, periods of on-the-job training are being introduced, in cooperation with the social partners.
The 1999-2000 Belgian intersectoral agreement contains a commitment to increase employers' contributions to training from 1.2% to 1.4% of the total paybill (BE9912312F), in keeping with efforts to bring the country in line with developments in three of its neighbouring countries (where between 1.2% and 1.9% of the paybill is spent on training). At sectoral level, around 80% of branches are covered by agreements which include some training-related provisions.
In Spain, training plans are found in just over 20% of collective agreements, covering over 27% of workers, according to the most recent figures. In the UK, although the issue of training has not traditionally formed part of collective bargaining, the incidence of this topic now appears to be increasing as trade unions attempt to incorporate training into the bargaining agenda through initiatives such as the Trades Union Congress's Bargaining for skills project (UK9906109F).
The issue of continuing vocational training is likely to be high on the bargaining agenda in 2000 in Norway, as this is an issue which the social partners have been looking at for some time. Proposed action in this area includes the establishment of a statutory right to educational leave, a restructuring of the existing arrangements for educational funding (such as the State Education Loan Fund) and the introduction of a statutory right for those without secondary education to re-enter the educational system (NO9904126F). At present, the proposed reforms have stalled over the issue of their financing, although it is hoped that this can be resolved during the 2000 bargaining round.
As indicated by table 3 below, new legislation on some aspects of social and employment policy was introduced in most EU Member States during the course of 1999. Issues such as flexible working and certain "atypical" forms of employment - eg temporary work, fixed-term contracts and part-time work - featured strongly in new legislative initiatives, as did a variety of initiatives aimed at transposing - with some delay in a number of cases - EU Directives into national legislation.
In Germany, a raft of new legislative provisions came into force at the beginning of 1999 (DE9901291N), as the Social Democrat/Green coalition government sought to reverse some of the changes made under the previous Christian Democrat-led government. These changes mainly concerned sick pay, protection against dismissal and posted workers.
1999 saw a veritable mountain of legislation enacted in Portugal, partly in response to EU Directives and partly in an attempt to modernise the legislative framework in that country. Thus, legislation transposing the Directives on parental leave (96/34/EC) (PT9905147F), young workers (94/33/EC) (PT9807185F), part-time work (97/81/EC) (PT9803170F) and European Works Councils (94/45/EC) (PT9912176F) all came into force in 1999. Despite this, there are still plans for further legislative reform in 2000, mainly in the area of health and safety.
Similarly, 1999 saw an ambitious legislative programme in the UK, as the Labour government's commitments in the industrial relations sphere were translated into practice. Thus, a national minimum wage was introduced for the first time in the UK on 1 April 1999 (UK9904196F), in addition to the introduction of a wide range of individual and collective employment rights (including trade union recognition) contained in the Employment Relations Act 1999 (UK9902180F). The provisions of this Act are being phased in. Other legislative reforms included new legislation to transpose the EU parental leave Directive (UK9912144F) and European Works Councils (EWC s) Directive (UK0001146N).
The parental leave Directive was also transposed into national legislation in Luxembourg (LU9903195F) in 1999, and a law to this effect was approved by Italy's Chamber of Deputies (IT9910347F) (subsequently adopted in February 2000). The transposition of the EWCs Directive in Luxembourg remains outstanding, despite the preparation of draft legislation and a European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgment against the Grand Duchy (EU9911209N).
Equality featured prominently in some countries, notably Ireland, where the Employment Equality Act 1998 finally entered into force in October 1999 (IE9909144F) following delays and redrafting subsequent to constitutional challenges. This is arguably one of the most significant pieces of equality legislation in Europe, as it prohibits discrimination on a total of nine separate grounds. In Sweden, three new anti-discrimination laws - covering discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, sexual orientation and disability - were approved in 1999 (SE9903148F) and came into force in May. The issue of wage formation occupied both legislators and the social partners in Sweden during 1999 - a bill to create a new Mediation Authority was finally presented by the government in December 1999, following the breakdown of social partner talks in this area (SE9912110F).
Spanish legislative initiatives during 1999 also concentrated on equality and "atypical" working. New legislation regulating temporary work agencies was passed in July (ES9907140F), serving to improve the rights of workers employed by these agencies. In addition, legislation concerning the reconciliation of work and family life was passed in November (ES9911165F), also serving to transpose the EU Directives on parental leave and maternity protection (92/85/EEC).
The regulation of collective redundancies and the proper implementation of the EU Directives in this area (now consolidated in Directive 98/59/EC) also featured in several Member States' legislative programmes during 1999. Countries enacting legislative amendments in this area included the UK (UK9910134F) and Portugal (PT9907151N).
In some countries, notably the Netherlands and France, the legislative focus during 1999 was very much on the organisation of working time. In the Netherlands, 1 January 1999 saw the enactment of the Flexibility and Security Act (NL9901117F) which aims to make work organisation more flexible whilst slightly increasing security for employees engaged in more flexible forms of work. Another aim of this legislation was increased deregulation of temporary work through agencies. In addition, legislation allowing employees to adjust their working hours either upwards or downwards was passed by the lower house of parliament in October 1999 (NL9910170N), and a bill setting out a new framework for combining work with care responsibilities was proposed in February (NL9902126N).
In France, in addition to the collective bargaining agenda, the legislative programme was also dominated by the introduction of the 35-hour working week. The second item of legislation on the issue came into force on 1 February 2000 (FR0001137F) following its passage through the upper and lower houses of parliament during the latter part of 1999 and a review by the Constitutional Council.
|"Atypical" work||In the Netherlands, the Flexibility and Security Act took effect on 1 January 1999, aiming to make employment more flexible while increasing the security of flexible employees. In Norway, new provisions abolishing the ban on the hiring out of labour were adopted in December 1999. In Portugal, new legislation enacted in of September 1999 broadens the potential use of temporary agency workers. In Spain, legislation governing temporary work agencies was amended on 1 July 1999, bringing pay for temporary agency workers in line with that for employees of user companies. Italy also amended its legislation on temporary agency work.|
|Collective bargaining||In Greece, Law 2738/1999 was passed in November 1999, allowing public servants the right to negotiate terms and conditions of employment, with the exclusion of pay and pensions. The new UK Employment Relations Act 1999, the phased implementation of which began in autumn 1999, provides for new trade union recognition rights.|
|Equality||In Ireland, the Employment Equality Act 1998 came into force in October 1999, introducing seven new grounds on which discrimination is outlawed. In Italy, new legislation on parental leave was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in October 1999 (and subsequently adopted in early 2000). Luxembourg legislation on parental leave was adopted in February 1999 as part of the country's 1998 NAP. In the Netherlands a bill for a new framework law on work and care was introduced in February 1999, entitling employees to paid leave in order to care for sick relatives. In Portugal, new legislation was adopted in 1999 transposing the EU parental leave Directive. In Spain the Law on Combining Family Life and Work was passed in November 1999, completing the transposition of EU Directives on maternity protection and parental leave. In Sweden, three new anti-discrimination Acts were approved in March 1999, outlawing discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, disability and sexual orientation. In the UK, new statutory parental leave entitlements came into force in December 1999.|
|Employment, labour market and job creation||In Belgium new provisions (the "Rosetta plan") were adopted in September 1999 which aim to improve the employability of young people by offering increased training opportunities. In Finland, the Act on Posted Workers came into force in December 1999, transposing the EU Directive - similar legislation was approved in Sweden in May and Norway in December. In Germany new legislation regulating posted workers came into force on 1 January 1999, extending the Posted Workers Act beyond its original expiry date of August 1999. In Portugal, Decree-Law No. 51/99 of 20 February 1999 established a job rotation scheme to allow workers to participate in training initiatives. In Spain, the Foreign Persons Law was passed in December 1999, aiming to improve the rights of immigrants on the labour market, among other aspects.|
|European Works Councils||In the UK new legislation transposing the EWCs Directive came into force on 15 January 2000, while in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain, legislation amending existing legislation governing EWCs was adopted in 1999 following the extension of the Directive to the UK. In Portugal Law No. 40/99 of 9 June 1999 transposed the original 1994 EWCs Directive.|
|Industrial relations||In Denmark, the Conciliation Act was amended in the autumn of 1999 in order to enact new provisions governing the settlement of industrial disputes. This new legislation was based an a joint DA/LO proposal. In Sweden, the government issued a bill in November 1999 creating a new Mediation Authority which is intended to start work in June 2000.|
|Pay and benefits||In Germany, new legislation came into force on 1 January 1999 increasing statutory sick pay entitlement from 80% to 100% of former pay, thus reversing an amendment introduced by the previous government. In addition, new regulations governing bad weather payments in the construction industry came into force from 1 November 1999. All countries with existing national minimum wages (Belgium, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) increased their rates in 1999, while in Luxembourg all wages, pensions and benefits rose by 2.5% from 1 August 1999 under the automatic indexation system. In the UK, the country's first ever national minimum wage came into force on 1 April 1999.|
|Termination of contract||In Greece, legislation governing collective redundancies (Law 1387/1983) was amended in July 1999 and Presidential Decree No. 151 was enacted in August 1999, providing protection to workers in the event of their employer's insolvency. In Portugal, Law 32/99 of 18 May 1999 completed transposition of the EU Directive regulating collective redundancies. In the UK, statutory consultation procedures in the case of redundancies and transfers were reformed in July 1999.|
|Working time||In France the second item of legislation introducing the 35-hour working week was approved in December 1999 and came into force on 1 February 2000. In the Netherlands the working hours adjustment bill, granting employees the right to adjust their working hours upwards or downwards, was approved by the lower house of parliament in October 1999. In Portugal, legislation on part-time work, which was hotly debated during 1998, was finally adopted in 1999, along with Decree-Law 96/99 of 23 March 1999 regulating night work. In the UK, working time legislation which came into force in October 1998 was amended in December 1999.|
The organisation and role of the social partners
1999 saw notable changes in the organisation of trade unions in some countries, as unions contemplated mergers and forms of enhanced cooperation in order to deal with issues such as globalisation and the emergence of new sectors, in addition to falling membership in some areas.
A restructuring of Norway's various trade union confederations has been ongoing for some years now, notably since a number of member unions left the Confederation of Norwegian Professional Associations (Akademikernes Fellesorganisasjon, AF) in 1997-8 to form a new organisation for academically qualified staff, Akademikerne. In January 1999, the Norwegian Society of Engineers (Norges Ingeniørforbund, NITO) also decided to leave AF (NO9901111N), while the two largest teaching unions - the AF-affiliated Teachers' Union Norway (Lærerforbundet) and the independent Norwegian Union of Teachers (Norsk Lærerlag, NL) - are discussing a possible merger (NO9904127N). Finally, during 1999 the leaders of AF and the Norwegian Confederation of Vocational Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS) confederations made public their intentions to merge (NO9907140F), an initiative later joined by the Norwegian Police Federation (Politiets Fellesforbund, PF).
In Germany, five service sector unions trade decided in 1999 in favour of merging to form one large general services union, known as the United Service Sector Union (Vereinigte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, Verdi) (DE9911225F).This merger, to take place in 2001, will create the world's largest single union, with some 3.2 million members. In the UK, the financial services sector saw the merger of three unions in May 1999, to form UNIFI (UK9903193N). In addition, two major unions - Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF)and the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) - held talks during 1999 on a possible merger, which, if it went ahead, would create the second-largest union in the UK (UK9912142N). A similar debate concerning the possible merger of a number of trade unions took place in Sweden, as a result of the increasingly blurred distinction between white-collar and university-educated employees, and between blue- and white-collar workers. Other mergers decided in 1999 included:
In terms of union cooperation, a number of Austrian unions signed a joint agreement in October 1999 in order to improve their presence in newly-established sectors such as information technology, telecommunications and data-processing (AT9911203N). In France, 1999 saw enhanced cooperation between some union confederations - including a joint declaration on the 35-hour week for managers by four confederations (FR9904176N) - and especially the strengthening of contacts between the two largest confederations, the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT) and the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT) (FR9902154F).
In some countries, a degree of disunity appeared between the main trade union confederations. In Italy, for example, a split opened up between the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil) and the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati dei Lavoratori, Cisl) which has hampered cooperation between these two confederations (IT9912137F).
The emergence of new sectors and decline of old sectors has resulted in trade union competition in some cases - in Denmark, for example, a dispute occurred in 1999 between the General Workers' Union (Specialarbejderforbundet i Danmark, SiD) and the the Danish Postal Service Union (Dansk Postforbund) concerning the right to organise workers in the privatised postal service (DK9909146N).
Debate concerning the organisation and role of the social partners in Luxembourg has centred almost exclusively on the issue of nationally representative status, which a trade union must have if the agreements it signs are to be accepted by the Ministry of Labour. Support for the Federation of Private Sector White-Collar Employees (Fédération des Employés Privés, FEP), declined considerably during 1999, bringing its nationally representative status into question (LU9812185N). Furthermore, the Luxembourg Association of Bank Staffs (Association luxembourgeoise des employés de banque, ALEBA) and the Union of Private Sector White-Collar Employees (Union des Employés Privés, UEP) joined forces and signed a new collective agreement with employers in the banking sector in April 1999 (LU9905104F). However, the agreement was not accepted by the Minister of Labour on the grounds that ALEBA-UEP does not have nationally representative status (LU9912117N).
A number of changes also took place in 1999 regarding the organisation and role of employers' organisations. Since 1998, France's main employers' organisation has: changed its name - from CNPF to the Movement of French Enterprises (Mouvement des entreprises de France, MEDEF) - and overhauled its structure (FR9811140F); increased consultation with its grassroots and continued its campaign against the 35-hour week (FR9909109N); and launched a campaign for a "new social constitution" (FR9912122F). On this last point, MEDEF is opposing what it perceives as state encroachment into trade union and employer jurisdictions, notably in the area of the management of social security funds. MEDEF threatened to pull out of these jointly-managed funds throughout 1999 and stated that it was not prepared to renegotiate the agreements on which the UNEDIC unemployment insurance system and the ARPE"job substitution allowance" scheme are based. Nevertheless, both accords were extended for six months in December 1999, pending talks on MEDEF's proposals for reform (FR0001134F). In Norway, employers' organisations are experiencing increasing competition for members and there is also a trend towards broader representation of the social partners, on both the employer and the union side, in various forums - as witnessed by the establishment of a range of new committees in late 1998 and 1999 (NO9908145F). In the UK, 1999 saw press reports that the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) was discussing a possible organisational link-up with the British Chambers of Commerce.
A number of important employers' organisation congresses were held in 1999, such as the 25th anniversary congress of the Confederation of Portuguese Industry (Confederação da Industria Portuguesa, CIP) at which it outlined its future strategy (PT9905146F).
At European level, 1999 saw a number of transnational strike and protest actions as trade unions increased their international coordination. On 5 October, unions organised Europe-wide demonstrations of lorry and bus drivers in protest against the deadlock in the extension of the EU working time Directive to mobile workers and self-employed drivers in road transport (EU9910203F). In addition, the European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) organised a European day of action in the shipbuilding industry on 5 November 1999 (EU9911208N). calling for measures to safeguard the sector and protesting against the perceived unfair competition from countries such as South Korea.
The incidence of industrial action decreased in 1999 in many EU Member States, although a number of countries experienced large conflicts confined to particular sectors. Countries where no days were lost due to industrial action included Luxembourg and Austria, although in the latter case, a number of warning actions took place which are not included in the official statistics. In the UK, available statistics show that strike action was at historically low levels during 1999, following the official figures for 1998 which had shown the lowest level of strike activity since records began in 1891. However, the UK did see some disputes, such as those involving university teaching staff and at Lufthansa (UK9907121N) and British Telecom (BT) (UK9912143N), in addition to threatened action by teachers (UK9904199N) and junior doctors (UK9910136N).
1999 was also a quiet year in terms of industrial action in Germany, although warning strikes accompanied collective bargaining in a number of sectors, including metalworking, public services, steel, printing, private transport and insurance. In addition, a number of actions were carried out at company level, within the context of bargaining or restructuring.
The social partners in Denmark were arguably still recovering from the major strike staged in the private sector in 1998 (DK9804166N) - 1999 recorded the lowest level of strikes since 1981 and the two major strikes of the year involved a one-week action by nurses (DK9905126N) and industrial action by midwives (DK9907135N).
In some countries, such as Spain, although there was a decrease in the overall number of days lost due to industrial action in 1999, the number of participants increased. High-profile disputes in Spain in 1999 took place in the shipbuilding (ES9912268F) and mining (ES9911263F) sectors, both of which are in the process of restructuring, with disputes centring on subsidy levels and employment. In addition, a general strike took place in the Basque Country over the issue of the 35-hour week (ES9905129N).
Some countries experienced significant industrial actions during 1999. In Ireland, although the total number of days lost to industrial action decreased in 1999, compared with 1998, the year was marked by a national strike staged by some 27,000 nurses over pay and professional status (IE9910297N). The strike was called off after nine days and a settlement was subsequently accepted (IE9912202N). In Belgium, industrial action took place in 1999 in the banking sector (BE9911310N) over the issue of working time, seen by commentators as indicative of reactions to new demands made on employees as a result of mergers and acquisitions in that sector. In France, industrial action was largely linked to negotiations concerning the introduction of the 35-hour week (FR9912125F) and to specific issues, such as the renewal of the banking sector agreement (FR0001133F) or the tyre manufacturer Michelin's decision to reduce its workforce (EU9911210N). In Sweden, three major strikes took place during 1999 - the first staged by bus drivers over working time (SE9906175N), the second by taxi drivers over guaranteed pay increases (SE9910103N), and the third by electricians over health and safety issues (SE9911104N).
Finland also had a relatively quiet year, although a significant one-month strike was staged in early 1999 by air traffic controllers, which accounted for 41% of the total number of days lost during the first half of the year (FI9902194F).
The country with the largest increase in industrial action in 1999 was Italy, with a 24.6% rise over the first 11 months of the year, compared with 1998 figures. This increase was related to the renewal of a large number of sectoral collective agreements in 1999. In addition, there was a high incidence of industrial action in public transport, notably in the railways and air traffic sectors. Portugal also experienced an increase in the number of working days lost to industrial action in 1999, although the rise was relatively slight: strikes here are less often related specifically to pay and more often to issues such as working time and health and safety.
Comprehensive figures for industrial action in 1999 are not yet available in early 2000. Figure 6 below provides data on the number of working days lost due to industrial action per 1,000 employees in 1998 and 1997 in the EU and Norway, as calculated by EIRO (with the caveat that many figures are estimates and that industrial action statistics are notoriously difficult to compare - TN0003401U). Although the table indicates that there are considerable differences between the levels of industrial action in the various countries, it should be noted that levels of industrial action throughout the EU are generally at a low level, when compared with previous years (the 1980s, for example).
National Action Plans for employment
Following the adoption of the Amsterdam Treaty, with its new title on employment (EU9707135F), it was agreed at the European Council's special "jobs summit" in Luxembourg in November 1997 (EU9711168F) that a European employment strategy should be built on the four main "pillars" of employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities. Since 1998, a set of annual Employment Guidelines has been adopted by the Council covering the four pillars and setting out a number of specific targets for Member States to achieve in their employment policies. The Guidelines must be transposed into concrete measures by the Member States, through their National Action Plans (NAP s) for employment. Following 1998's first set of NAPs (EU9805107N) responding to the 1998 Employment Guidelines, Member States submitted NAPs for 1999 during summer 1999, analysing implementation of the 1998 Plans and describing the policy adjustments made to incorporate the changes introduced by the 1999 Employment Guidelines (EU9810130F). The Member States are asked to give the social partners the opportunity to make a specific input into the Plans on those aspects of the employability and adaptability guidelines which give them a direct role. National governments are also expected to consult the social partners about the NAP as a whole and make appropriate arrangements for their views to be incorporated. However, this objective appears to be more fully realised in some Member States than in others, arguably largely due to the differing national industrial relations traditions. Further, some differences in attitudes towards the NAPs exist between employee and employer representatives. Table 4 below outlines the main features of the social partners' involvement in the NAPs in the 15 EU Member States in 1999.
|Austria||In keeping with national decision-making traditions, the social partners were fully involved in drawing up all aspects of the NAP (AT9910201F) and commented on the government's final draft text. The social partners are also involved in the implementation of the plan, by means of their representation on the governing board of the public employment service, AMS.|
|Belgium||Active social partner participation in drawing up and implementing the NAP is enshrined in the 1999-2000 intersectoral agreement, while texts with a social partner input form the basis for the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels regional contributions to the Belgian NAP|
|Denmark||The social partners were involved in drawing up the NAP at both central and regional level, with tripartite negotiations at central level on most NAP issues. The participation of the social partners in the NAP is perceived as reflecting their wish to strengthen tripartite negotiations. In particular, the LO union confederation believes that itself and the DA employers' confederation should take greater financial responsibility for continuing adult vocational training.|
|Finland||All the main social partner organisations appointed members of the working group charged with preparing the 1999 NAP. All basic elements of the NAP, such as economic development, strategic alignments and guidelines for lifelong learning, were discussed with the social partners.|
|France||The social partners felt in 1999 that they were better informed and more widely involved by the government concerning the NAP than in the previous year. However, they also noted that short timescales prevented a detailed input (FR9906189F).|
|Germany||The content of the 1999 NAP was based on the discussions between the social partners within the tripartite Alliance for Jobs forum (which debates and draws up measures designed to reduce unemployment) and the government discussed the resulting text with the social partners before forwarding it to the European Commission.|
|Greece||The government drew up the NAP with the help of the social partners (GR9906133F), although there are differences between the unions and the employers with regard to the Plan's objectives - the employers see it as a way of achieving lower labour costs and increasing competitiveness, while unions are anxious that it should not weaken the existing employee protection framework (GR9906134F).|
|Ireland||Trade unions have expressed dissatisfaction with their involvement in the 1999 NAP (IE9905137F), with the ICTU confederation maintaining that its input was limited to commenting on a draft prepared by the government rather than involvement in actually drawing up the text, even though the current national agreement, P2000, refers specifically to social partner involvement in drawing up the plan. ICTU would like the social partners to be involved in the drafting of a text at least three months before the deadline for its completion.|
|Italy||The NAP, approved by the government in May 1999 (IT9905115N), stresses the importance of concertation between the government and the social partners at both national and local level.|
|Luxembourg||Luxembourg is the country which has had the most difficulty in drawing up its NAP. The 1998 NAP was discussed within a tripartite forum, which encountered severe difficulties mainly over the proposed amendment of working time legislation. Negotiations were so difficult and the resulting proposals came in for so much criticism during the year, that the 1998 NAP was not approved until 3 February 1999 (LU9902194N) and did not come into force until 1 March 1999. Meetings took place during 1999 concerning that year's NAP, although no concrete proposals had been approved by the end of the year - as the 1998 NAP came into effect so late, it is expected that the differences between the two years' NAPs will be minimal. In May 1999, a national conference discussed the possibility of implementing the NAP through collective agreements (LU9906108N).|
|Netherlands||No significant developments in the role of the social partners in the NAP were reported in 1999.|
|Portugal||The NAP was developed through interministerial cooperation, and with the participation of the social partners (PT9904137F). While the NAP is being hailed as a success, in that some 30% of unemployed workers have so far benefited from its measures, long-term unemployment remains a problem and trade unions have expressed doubt about the value of the NAP, arguing that the type of employment which has been created so far is of a temporary or precarious nature.|
|Spain||The 1999 NAP (ES9907239F) caused some controversy amongst the social partners - the text was rejected by the trade unions on the grounds that, in their view, the NAP places too much onus on unemployed people to improve their skills and find work, rather than concentrating on improving the structure of the labour market. The unions also claimed that the government had not fully involved them in drawing up the text (they state that only one meeting with the social partners was called by the government, one month before the NAP was passed, and that this was merely an information meeting).|
|Sweden||The 1999 NAP states that it is necessary to improve the wage formation process. Thus, in December 1999, the government proposed that a new Mediation Authority should be formed (SE9903150N). This announcement followed the inconclusive outcome of "exploratory talks" on this issue between the social partners during 1998.|
|United Kingdom||The government consulted the CBI employers' confederation and TUC union confederation on the content of its 1999 NAP, following the practice adopted in 1998. Officials of the two organisations then drew up a joint contribution to the NAP covering issues such as employability, the modernisation of work organisation and the development of equal opportunities policies (UK9904198N).|
The impact of EMU on collective bargaining and industrial relations
This issue has engendered a great deal of debate in recent years, particularly within the trade union community. While it is as yet difficult to foresee the real practical implications of the single currency, which was launched as recently as 1 January 1999 and will not take the form of notes and coins in the 11 euro-zone countries until the first half of 2002, a variety of trade union initiatives have took place in 1999, aimed at closer cooperation and coordination in order to avoid downward pressure on pay within the context of greater pay transparency. In addition, it appears to be becoming more commonplace for unions, within the context of their domestic bargaining, to link, implicitly or expressly, demands and outcomes to developments in neighbouring and competitor countries. This practice will arguably become more widespread as EMU becomes more concrete over the coming years.
A 1999 EIRO comparative study on the "Europeanisation" of collective bargaining (TN9907201S) found a growing deployment of cross-country comparisons of pay, working conditions and employment practice in established bargaining arrangements at sector and enterprise levels within each country, and the development of forms of bargaining coordination across European borders (though with sectoral and national differences). So far the emphasis has been on implicit forms of coordination - that is the use by employers and unions of international comparisons, or developments in other countries, as benchmarks in sector and enterprise-level collective bargaining. Whereas implicit forms of coordination appear to be reasonably widespread, there are as yet relatively few instances of explicit coordination. Explicit coordination includes formal coordination of the bargaining agenda across borders and/or collective agreements whose terms are expressly contingent on developments in other countries. Reflecting this distinction, bargaining cooperation in the shape of exchange of information between, respectively, employers' associations and trade unions is rather more widespread than bargaining coordination as such.
At European level, coordination initiatives on the part of trade unions include developments such as the adoption by the European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) of a "coordination rule" in December 1998, under which the wage policy of affiliated unions must be to offset inflation and reflect productivity gains (DE9812283F). In June 1999, the European Regional Organisation of the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Professional and Technical Employees (Euro-FIET) - now part of UNI-Europa- adopted an action plan for a euro bargaining network which foresees the promotion of a coordinated bargaining strategy at the level of its trade sections. This builds on a strategy paper adopted in March 1998 (EU9809128F). Other initiatives in 1999 included: the adoption of an internal sectoral protocol on collective bargaining coordination strategy by the European Trade Union Federation - Textiles, Clothing and Leather (ETUF-TCL) in September (EU9910205N); the adoption of a declaration on coordinating bargaining at EU level by the European Graphical Federation (EGF) (now part of UNI-Europa); and an initiative by the scaffolding sector of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) to improve coordination of union demands and strategies in order to prevent a deterioration of social standards (DE9911224N).
Concrete initiatives involving a number of individual countries include the "Doorn declaration" made in 1998 by trade unions from Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium, which sought to keep bargaining outcomes at a level corresponding to the development of prices and labour productivity increases (DE9810278F). These parties met in September 1999 in order to review the operation of this declaration (DE9909215N), maintaining that it has been successful, in that the outcomes of the 1999 round have fulfilled the criteria set out in the declaration.
At sectoral level, in March 1999 metalworking unions from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia adopted a joint memorandum on interregional collective bargaining policy (DE9904298F), stating their will to prevent possible "wage dumping" strategies through closer coordination of bargaining (in line with an EMF strategy of establishing regional cross-border bargaining networks among its affiliates). Also in this sector, the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet) called for greater European coordination of bargaining and, along with other metalworkers' unions in other Nordic countries, invited representatives from these unions to participate as observers in the run-up to Norway's spring 2000 wage settlements (NO9909152N).
Unions in Germany have in general been active in establishing cross-border contacts with other unions - for example: in the metalworking industry, IG Metall has invited union representatives from neighbouring countries to observe the bargaining round in some regions; in the construction industry, cooperation initiatives took place in 1999 between German and Polish trade unions (DE9911223N); in woodworking, German and Italian unions called for the establishment of a European collective bargaining committee aimed at defining common bargaining objectives (IT9907123N); and in chemicals, German and French unions signed a cooperation agreement covering areas including bargaining policy (DE9905201N).
Linking of actual bargaining demands and outcomes to those in other European countries appears to be gathering pace. In Belgium the current two-year intersectoral collective agreement states explicitly that hourly labour costs for full-time workers may not increase by more than the average of its three main neighbouring countries. In Sweden, commentators note that although this country is outside the euro-zone, most of the collective agreements concluded during 1999 kept pay increases within average levels agreed in other European countries.
In countries such as the Netherlands, debate concerning EMU has so far largely taken the form of warnings from employers to keep pay increases down. In Luxembourg too, the debate is as yet in its infancy, although the social partners realise that EMU will have significant implications for the country's banking sector, an industry which is of key national importance.
In some countries, particularly those which are currently outside the euro-zone, trade unions have drafted a variety of position papers concerning the potential consequences of EMU. In the UK, EMU was actively debated within TUC during the year (UK9905102F), culminating in TUC's 1999 annual congress voting for a resolution favouring UK entry early in the new decade, even though this position was not supported by the TUC's two largest affiliates (UK9909129N). Similarly, in Greece, trade unions published a study on the expected impact of EMU on pay and employment if Greece were to join the single currency (GR9809192N), followed by a report in May 1999 on the potential effects in the banking sector (GR9905127F). In Denmark, LO issued a report in September 1999 recommending that Denmark should join the third stage of EMU and foreseeing that EMU could in the long term force a European harmonisation and coordination of collective bargaining demands, a development which has already started (DK9909144F).
Finally, the new European employment pact, which was adopted at the European Council summit in Cologne in June 1999 (EU9906180N), might exert a certain influence on bargaining at national and sectoral level. The new European "macroeconomic dialogue" between representatives from social partners' organisations, Member States, and European institutions including the European Central Bank, established by the pact, aims to create "to the greatest possible extent, a mutually supportive interaction within EMU between wage developments, fiscal policy and monetary policy". Although it is stated that this new "macroeconomic dialogue" will not be "questioning the autonomy of the social partners in collective bargaining", it can be assumed that more intensified debates on, for example, wage policy at European level, will have their influence on national collective bargaining
Developments in the area of employee representation in 1999 largely concerned European Works Councils (EWCs) and the transposition of the EU Directive on this issue. In some countries, national EWCs legislation has only just been enacted, while in others, the establishment of individual EWCs was the main development in 1999 (some 69 new EWC agreements were concluded during the year, according to the European Trade Union Institute). In some countries, however, new national legislation on employee representation was either enacted or debated and "social elections" of employee representatives were also held in some Member States.
EWCs legislation was published in December 1999 in the UK and came into force on 15 January 2000 (UK0001146N). This country was not covered by the original 1994 Directive by virtue of its "opt-out" from the Maastricht Treaty's Agreement on Social Policy. Once the new Labour government had decided to opt in, an Directive (97/74/EC) was adopted in December 1997, applying the 1994 Directive's provisions to the UK. The implementation date for this Directive was 15 December 1999. The inclusion of the UK within the scope of the EWCs Directive has meant that many countries are obliged to amend their national implementing legislation. For example, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain amended their legislation during 1999.
Portugal also enacted national legislation implementing the original EWCs Directive in 1999 (PT9912176F), somewhat belatedly. In Luxembourg, implementing legislation is still not in place, despite a ruling from the ECJ in 1999 (EU9911209N) and the existence of draft legislation. During the ECJ hearing, the Luxembourg government had argued that the majority of companies in Luxembourg which are covered by the Directive already have voluntary agreements in place. However, the ECJ still ruled that Luxembourg had failed in its obligations to implement Community legislation in this area. The enactment of Luxembourg's implementing legislation is expected in 2000.
National-level employee representation developments include the drawing up of new statutory trade union recognition procedures in the UK, within the context of that country's new Employment Relations Act. Although the union recognition provisions are not scheduled to enter into force until after Easter 2000, there is evidence that they are already affecting employer attitudes, resulting in an increase in union recognition agreements (UK9902183N). The issue of trade union recognition also featured strongly in Ireland, where a high-level group debated the subject and reached an agreement in 1999 which was accepted by all social partners (IE9903135F). Under the agreement, the voluntarist approach to recognition will be retained, although there is provision for the Irish Labour Court to issue a binding recommendation if employers reject or abuse the voluntary procedures. The Court's recommendation would not oblige companies to recognise trade unions, but it may issue binding determinations on issues such as pay and employment conditions.
In Germany, the debate centred on this country's co-determination system, with unions demanding its protection in the context of developments such as the merger of Hoechst and Rhô ne-Poulenc (FR9812146F) and Vodafone's hostile takeover bid for Mannesmann (DE9911220F). In the Netherlands, trade unions concentrated their efforts on an attempt to reform company law with a view to allowing genuine "worker directors" to sit on the supervisory board of companies. However, employers are calling for the proposed legislation to be postponed and incorporated with other proposals concerning issues such as defensive measures against hostile takeovers (NL9910166F).
Developments relating to employee representation at national level included the first elections to Rsu representative bodies at the national post office in Italy, which took place in November 1999 (IT9911348F) and which resulted in federations affiliated to Cgil, Cisl and Uil receiving a total of around 80% of the votes. In France, elections were held in December 1999 for employee representatives on joint committees in the public education, teaching and vocational guidance sector: the United Union Federation (Fédération syndicale unitaire, FSU), which is opposed to current education reforms, maintained its leading position (FR0001128N). Also in France, the introduction of the 35-hour week has had consequences in terms of employee representation, and debate during 1999 focused on the issue of the representative status of trade unions, within the context of signing 35-hour week agreements (FR9909104F).
New forms of work
The social partners and legislators in the majority of countries recognise that new ways of working should be encouraged for a variety of reasons, including helping employees to balance work and life more effectively and helping employers to be more flexible in the way they conduct their business. While employers are keen to create a framework which allows a great deal of flexibility to companies, unions are anxious to limit any potential employer abuse of increased flexibility and to provide as much security as possible for employees working in more flexible ways - notably those with part-time, fixed-term and temporary contracts, teleworkers and those who work very flexible hours, including those with "zero-hours" contracts. The proportion of the workforce which is employed on an "atypical" basis is increasing in the majority of countries. In particular, the number of part-time workers is reaching significant proportions - 25% in the UK, for example. In the Netherlands, the proportion of part-timers, at around 37%, is the highest in the EU. Other forms of atypical working - notably temporary agency work as regulations governing temporary employment agencies are being relaxed (TN9901201S), and teleworking as the advance of new technology continues - are growing, engendering social partner debate concerning the potential consequences.
Much has been accomplished at EU level to create a balance between flexibility and security, in the form of the social partner agreements and subsequent Directives on part-time work (97/81/EC) and fixed-term contracts (99/70/EC). In individual countries, much of the activity in this area in 1999 concerned the drawing up of legislation to implement these Directives (see above under "Legislative developments"), in addition to the drafting of laws which regulate temporary work agencies, the operation of which is still comparatively recent in some countries.
In Spain, for example, temporary employment agencies have been operating only since 1994. Due to concerns about terms and conditions for the employees of these agencies, new legislation was enacted in 1999 providing for increased protection for these workers, particularly in the area of pay (ES9907140F). Many countries still have tight restrictions on practices such as the use of fixed-term contracts and the use of temporary employment agency employees, and are in the process of relaxing these rules. This is the case in Norway, where a relaxation of legislation covering temporary work agencies was debated in parliament in the autumn of 1999 (NO9912168F).
In Finland, the new government's policy programme included a large number of measures aimed at introducing more flexibility into working life, with the aim of developing labour legislation into a "balanced entity" which meets both companies' needs for flexibility and employees' needs for security (FI9810179F). In Portugal, although non-standard forms of working are increasing and fixed-term contracts accounted for over 16% of all contracts signed in the second quarter of 1999, part-time and temporary work is not widespread. However, a number of trade union and government initiatives to debate new forms of working took place during 1999. In the Netherlands, significant new legislation on flexibility and security came into force on 1 January 1999 (NL9901117F), along with legislation allowing employees to adjust working hours (NL9910170N).
The social partners in Italy have been actively involved in the amendment of legislation governing temporary work agencies - in November 1999 the social partners in the temporary employment sector concluded an agreement relaxing the regulation of agency work (IT9912135N), which then formed the basis for legislative amendments. Thus, temporary agency employees can now be used in agriculture and in the construction sector and in the case of low-skilled and unskilled workers.
The debate on new forms of work in Germany largely took place within the Alliance for Jobs forum during 1999 (DE9907219F), which called for the creation of more part-time work - around 14% of the workforce is estimated to work on a part-time basis in Germany.
In Austria, as in many other countries, the proportion of the workforce which is employed "atypically" is rising, although the use of temporary employment agencies is comparative low. Trade unions are demanding amendments to existing legislation in order to provide for adequate protection for atypical employees and are endeavouring to include within the scope of collective bargaining part-time workers and people on very low pay as a consequence of working very few hours, in order to extend to them some form of collectively-agreed protection.
The French debate concerning new forms of work is, as with almost all issues in France, linked to the introduction of the 35-hour week. The government hopes that companies will restructure working time organisation within the context of hours reductions, thus introducing more flexibility. There is evidence that this is happening - see above under "Collective bargaining". In addition, the government has been encouraging the introduction of part-time working since 1992 by means of state subsidies in the form of reduced social security contributions, although this will be phased out by February 2001.
Source: Eurostat. Includes seasonal work, fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, fixed-term training contracts and fixed-term probationary contracts.
Many of the issues which have dominated industrial relations throughout 1999 are set to occupy the social partners further during 2000. In terms of collective bargaining, the social partners in Ireland were occupied during the first few months of the year with the negotiation of a new national-level agreement, which was concluded in draft form in February 2000. Subject to endorsement by the members of ICTU and IBEC, it will take over from the current accord, which expires at the end of March 2000. Similarly, in Greece, the social partners will be engaged in negotiating a new national accord, and in Sweden unions will begin to draw up their bargaining platforms in advance of the renegotiation of the sectoral agreements which expire in the spring of 2001. The 2000 bargaining round will be a "main" round in Norway and will no doubt prove to be interesting, given the tensions in 1999 between the unions involved, and the question of whether pay moderation can be maintained in an environment of low unemployment and labour shortages in some sectors. In Finland, the social partners will have to make a decision during 2000 regarding whether or not to return to national-level bargaining. The 2000 round is being conducted on a sectoral basis, although if one-year agreements are negotiated, scope remains for a return to centralised bargaining in 2001. Similarly, the first months of 2000 in Denmark were dominated by the renegotiation of agreements in the DA/LO area (which concluded successfully in February 2000) - commentators note that all parties were anxious to avoid a repetition of the major strike in 1998.
In terms of pay, much will depend on the outcome of the German metalworking round. If IG Metall succeeds in securing a relatively high increase, other sectors in Germany are likely to follow suit and this will also have a knock-on effect in the rest of the EU. Nevertheless, there are pressures for pay moderation from unions in some countries - the unions confederations in Norway are committed to pay moderation (though disagreeing on the distribution of the moderate pay rises), as is LO in Sweden.
Debates on working time and the organisation of work will no doubt continue during 2000, particularly in France, where the second 35-hour week law will be in its first year of operation - in this country, there will be much interest in whether this initiative is having any success in creating employment. In Sweden, commentators expect that the government may introduce a bill during 2000 on the reduction of working time. The introduction of an extra week of annual holiday entitlement is likely to feature prominently in this year's main bargaining round in Norway (as has occurred in Denmark).
In terms of the structure of the labour market, many countries will be continuing with the privatisation programmes initiated in recent years. In Greece, for example, the privatisation programme initiated in September 1999 will be continued and commentators expect this to cause a certain amount of social tension, related particularly to wage freezes.
In political terms, Austria has a controversial new government which will no doubt have an impact on this country's social and employment policy. General elections are expected in 2000 in Spain and in Greece.
Labour market policy will also continue to dominate social policy discussions, as Member States draw up and implement their 2000 NAPs within the framework of the Employment Guidelines. The emphasis in 2000 will, according to the new Guidelines, be on issues such as access to the internet, "active ageing", the preventative approach to unemployment, involving the social partners in the modernisation of work organisation, and the role of the public employment services in local-level job creation. In this regard, the Netherlands appears to be one of the few countries which is in the position of suffering from labour market shortages (the same problem also exists in Sweden to some extent) and this will be the issue on which the social partners in this country will be focusing during 2000.
Social security is another issue which will be under discussion in 2000 in some member states. In Spain, the renewal of the 1995 "Toledo Pact" on this issue is expected to dominate discussions following the March 2000 general elections. Debate is likely to cover pension provision, the separation of sources of social security income and the extension of subsidies and unemployment cover - the negotiations are expected to be difficult. In France too, there is likely to be heated debate amongst the social partners concerning their joint regulation of social security funds. The current agreement governing unemployment insurance has been extended until mid-2000 and so must be renegotiated. The talks are expected to be difficult as the central employers' organisation, MEDEF, had throughout 1999 been threatening to withdraw from the joint regulation of social protection funds. In Denmark, a debate on the reform of social insurance is expected during 2000, particularly with regard to increased tripartite regulation. Social security will also retain its high profile in Dutch industrial relations.
Finally, 2000 is likely to be a key year in countries outside the euro-zone in terms of decisions about whether to participate in the single currency. In Denmark, the debate is expected to enter into a decisive phase in 2000, with a referendum predicted early in 2001. In Sweden, 2000 is also expected to be a crucial year in terms of this debate, although no referendum date has been forecast. In the UK, preparations have been made, in the form of the publication of a government national changeover plan in the event of the UK's participation in the single currency. However, the debate in the UK is as yet inconclusive. Both CBI and TUC favour EMU entry, though some major unions and elements of the UK business community continue to take a more "euro-sceptic" stance. The Labour government supports the principle of EMU, but is committed to holding a referendum on the issue. The prospects for and timing of UK entry therefore remain uncertain and will depend on favourable economic and political conditions. In Greece, the government is aiming to bring this country's economic indicators into line with the requirements for EMU before any decisions concerning a referendum can be made. (Andrea Broughton, IRS)
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