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A new pay award announced in April by the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) for
England and Wales after two days of talks, gives farm workers a minimum wage
of GBP 4.12 per hour. The AWB is the only wages council - setting statutory
minimum pay rates for a particular sector - left in the UK after the rest
were abolished in 1993 (UK9703112F ). When the Conservative Government was
originally looking at abolishing the wages councils in 1986, the proposal was
delayed because employers were not in favour of them being abolished, as they
at least set some minimum floor of standards with which employers could work.
The case for this was made most strongly by agricultural employers, and this
was why the AWB was left in place after 1993.
In its bill, presented to Parliament on 15 April 1997, the Government states
that the policy of austerity which has been in operation for last few years
has been so successful that it is now possible to focus more on its most
important goal - to halve the rate of unemployment to 4% before 2000.
Padraig Flynn, the commissioner responsible for employment, industrial
relations and social affairs, announced on 3 April 1997 that the Commission
is to take infringement proceedings against three member states for their
failure to apply certain Community legislation in the social field. Reasoned
opinions outlining the Commission's view are to be sent to France, Italy and
Greece. The details of the cases are as follows:
Some 25,000 blue-collar workers are covered by the agreement between the
Employers' Association of the Swedish Wood Products Industry and the Swedish
Wood Industry Workers' Union, reached on 4 April 1997. All employees receive
across-the-board minimum pay increases of SEK 1 per hour. In addition, the
local parties have SEK 0.95 an hour per worker at their disposal to allocate
on an individual basis. The settlement represents an overall increase in pay
On 9 April 1997, the telecommunication conglomerate Deutsche Telekom AG and
the Deutsche Postgewerkschaft (DPG) postal workers' union signed a package of
enterprise-level collective agreements for the employees at the Telekom
subsidiary Deutsche Telekom Mobilnet GmbH (DeTeMobil). After five months of
negotiations, this package represents the first such collective agreement in
the mobile telephony industry since the beginning of the step-by-step
liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has published more information
about the activities to be launched as part of its "European Day of Action
for Employment", to take place all across the EU as well as in some Central
and Eastern European countries on 28 May 1997.
On 15 April 1997, the Almega Industrial and Chemical Association and the
Industrial Union concluded a new collective agreement on wages and general
terms and conditions of employment for blue-collar workers in the
pharmaceutical, rubber, plastic and paint industries. It runs from 1 June
1997 to 30 April 1998.
On 9 April 1997, the airline company Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the Union for
Public Services, Transport and Communication (Gewerkschaft Öffentliche
Dienste, Transport und Verkehr, ÖTV) and the German Salaried Employees'
Union (Deutsche Angestelltengewerkschaft, DAG) concluded a package deal,
which ended months of industrial action. The DAG agreed to be covered by the
Lufthansa-ÖTV collective agreements signed in October 1996. Furthermore, the
deal provides for an increase in the profit-sharing bonus of DEM 100 and an
overtime pay rise for cockpit employees. From September 1997, the trade
unions have the right to terminate the wage agreements in the event that
Lufthansa does not keep special rules which were jointly established. In
addition, Lufthansa, the ÖTV and the DAG agreed on the continuation of the
existing collective agreement which maintains the status quo for cabin crew,
as well as the existing general agreement on pay grades for ground staff, for
another three years.
In March 1997, the social partners in Italy's leather and suede sector agreed
a code of conduct providing for the application of International Labour
Organisation (ILO) Conventions on the rights of workers and the employment of
In a recent report (/Social Europe/ 4/96, published in March/April 1997), the
European Commission assesses the progress towards the achievement of the
goals of the medium-term social action programme covering the period between
1995-7. This social action programme, adopted in April 1995, is seen by the
Commission as marking a breakthrough for new ideas and policies. The basic
concept underlying the programme is that social policy is a productive factor
facilitating change and progress, rather than a burden on the economy or an
obstacle to growth.