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  • Teachers' union delegates topple chair

    In the first ballot for the chair of the federal executive committee of the teachers' trade union, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), held among congress delegates on 26 May 1997, Dieter Wunder, chair since 1981, surprisingly and unexpectedly failed to reach the necessary absolute majority, although no rival candidate had been nominated. Mr Wunder subsequently stood down as a candidate for the second ballot. It was the first time that a trade union affiliated to the German Trade Union Federation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) had rejected the re-election of its chair in such a way. After the results of the first ballot became public, the congress was interrupted for several hours. During the previous months, there had been considerable and controversial internal discussions on the relationship between the federal executive committee and the executive committees of regional GEW branches, as well as on leadership, trade union ideologies and GEW strategies. Many delegates asserted that they wanted to teach Mr Wunder a lesson, though it was not their intention to vote him out.
  • New sectoral collective agreements cover 1.4 million workers

    After the failure in late 1996 (BE9702101F [1]) to come to a national intersectoral agreement for 1997-8, the Belgian Government gave the lower-level negotiators on both sides a clear message: the maximum pay increase should be 6.1% spread over two years (1997 and 1998). The negotiators have apparently respected the Government's position: the average increase in labour costs arising from sectoral collective agreements is between 5.6% and 5.7%. The Government also guaranteed an annual subsidy of BEF 150,000 to help offset the cost of each newly created job, if two of the following employment schemes were part of the negotiated agreement - part-time work, part-time early retirement, flexible work schedules, collective reduction of working hours, additional training and temporary leave or career breaks (loopbaanonderbreking). [1]
  • Parliament turns down legislative proposal to prohibit closed shops

    In June 1997, the Norwegian Parliament turned down a legislative proposal which would provide employees with a right both to choose their own organisation or not to be organised. The aim of the proposal was primarily to prohibit collective agreements with closed shop clauses. This would have had a particular impact on employees in enterprises affiliated to the labour movement.
  • Government and unions differ on EU information and consultation proposals

    On 4 June, Padraig Flynn, the European Commissioner responsible for social affairs, employment and industrial relations, launched a consultation document on "information and consultation of workers within the national framework" (EU9706132F [1]). The document constitutes the first stage of consultation of the European-level social partners under the Maastricht social policy Agreement procedure, and could thus lead to a European-level agreement and/or Community legislation. If the Commission's proposals bear fruit, there would be minimum standards across Europe to ensure that workers enjoy rights to be informed and consulted. These rights would apply to all workers in enterprises above a certain size (50 employees has been suggested as a possible threshold). The new measure would reinforce existing requirements on national information and consultation over transfers of undertakings, collective redundancies and health and safety issues. [1]
  • Campaign for social standards among German global players

    The confederation of Critical Shareholders (Kritische Aktionäre) is an alliance of about 35 small shareholders' groups and other non-governmental organisations such as environmental, consumer and anti-militaristic groups. Currently, the Critical Shareholders are active in about 40 German corporations including the most important German banks as well as various industrial corporations in the automobile, electronic, chemical and food industries. They can call on up to 5% of the votes cast in some of the companies.
  • Dispute at Astander shipyard

    Protests in June 1997 against the termination of ship-refitting work at Spain's publicly owned Astander shipyard met with a forceful response from the police. The problem arose because the Ministry of Industry imposed a unilateral amendment to the Strategic Competitiveness Plan for the naval sector. The dispute is still continuing, even though the Ministry has modified its position
  • New statute for federal civil servants

    In June 1997, André Flahaut, the minister for civil service affairs, proposed a number of measures which constitute a new statute for about 100,000 federal civil servants. The cabinet accepted his proposals, which will become operational on 1 January 1998. The most important changes are to be found in recruitment, appraisal and disciplinary procedures for public servants and new measures to increase mobility within the civil service.
  • Unions welcome role in Government

    After 18 years in the wilderness, being frozen out of influence in the corridors of government by Conservative administrations, trade unions have been informed that they will be offered places on working groups being formed to advise various government departments. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) reports a substantially changed mood in Whitehall and Westminster, after years of unions being systematically excluded from representing their members.
  • Report examines collectively agreed holidays and holiday bonuses in 1997

    According to a recent study of 1997 provisions by the Institute for Economics and Social Science (Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI), most employees in Germany receive a collectively agreed holiday bonus, though there are significant sectoral differences in the amount of the bonus. While most employees are due 30 days' paid leave per year, the average annual holiday bonus for a blue collar worker in a middle-range income group ranges between DEM 200 and DEM 2,587.
  • Privatisation for state-owned companies?

    In his inaugural address to the National Assembly on 19 June 1997, France's new Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, said nothing to clarify his position on the privatisation programme planned by the outgoing Government.