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On 2 April 1997 it became public that during the ongoing collective
bargaining at the German automobile company, Volkswagen, management had made
a proposal to create a new "internal temporary employment agency"
(Zeitarbeitsgesellschaft). Depending on the incoming orders, the agency's
newly hired employees would be set to work at the different Volkswagen
plants. Volkswagen proposed to pay the new temporary employees under the
terms and conditions of the current branch-level collective agreement in the
/The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
is currently conducting a major research project on Equal opportunities and
collective bargaining in Europe, co-funded by DG V of the European
Commission. The aim is to assist in the complicated task of promoting equal
opportunities for women and men by means of collective bargaining. The
continuing project has at present reached the stage where the issues have
been defined, and national reports drawn up by a network of correspondents,
exploring the context of the issue in each of the 15 EU member states. A
consolidated report on stage one of the project has been prepared by Yota
Kravaritou of the European University Institute. /
Taking into account significant changes in the international environment and
their impact on the Greek economy, the Government in March 1997 announced
that it would invite the social partners to a process of social dialogue on a
set of three themes: development, competitiveness and employment. The first
meeting is scheduled to take place towards the end of May. Participants in
the dialogue include representatives of Ministries, employer and employee
organisations from both the private and the public sectors and the Chambers
of Commerce, amongst others.
Government plans to amend Finnish legislation to bring it into line with EU
equality law have recently proved controversial with the Finnish
Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK). Following negotiations, further
discussion of the issue has been postponed to autumn 1997.
In 10 sessions over the course of five months, the Metals, Mining and Energy
Workers trade union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Bergbau-Energie, GMBE) and eight
associations together comprising the metalworking sector within the
Bundessektion Industrie of the Austrian Chamber of the Economy
(Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) have thrashed out a collective
agreement on working time flexibilisation covering 229,000 employees (162,000
waged, 67,000 salaried) in industrial establishments. However, one of the
eight associations - Fachverband der Metallwarenindustrie- has been blocking
ratification of the deal since mid-March.
An international comparison of labour disputes from 1986 to 1995 by /Labour
Market Trends/ (April 1997) highlights that the UK had the fourth-lowest
strike rate of the 22 member countries of the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1995. Only Austria, Switzerland and
Germany had a lower level of strikes than the UK. The UK strike rate has been
below the OECD average since 1986 and below the EU average since 1990.
Between 1991 and 1995 the average rate in the UK was 24 working days lost per
1,000 workers - an 82% fall over the previous five-year period. But the UK's
rise in the international "league table" of two places since 1994 took place
despite an increase in the strike rate itself.
Ireland's largest trade union, the Services Industrial Professional and
Technical Union (SIPTU), has a new president after a closer than expected
ballot of its 180,000 members. The tight result - announced in early April
1997 - surprised the union's leadership, given the fact that a left-wing
activist polled almost 42% of the votes cast compared with the 56% who voted
for former vice-president, Jimmy Somers.
The cases have been hailed as a major victory for all National Health Service
(NHS) staff by the Manufacturing, Science and Finance (MSF) trade union,
which represented the workers involved in their cases. The union's national
secretary, Roger Kline said that the: "case is a momentous one. It has
implications for women staff throughout the NHS and other industries. It is a
landmark decision and is the biggest single breakthrough on equal pay for
women for many years."