The shock announcement by French motor manufacturer Renault, on 28 February
1997, of the closure of its plant at Vilvoorde, led to an unprecedented
public display of condemnation among the political establishment of the
European Union (EU). The closure of the plant, in the Belgian Prime
Minister's constituency near Brussels, with the loss of 3,100 jobs, was
apparently announced without prior consultation with worker representatives.
The move was justified by Renault as being part of a wider reorganisation
aimed at making savings of over FRF 825 million per year. The closure of the
only Renault production site in Belgium is likely to lead a further 1,000
redundancies among suppliers and subcontractors; jobs which, in the current
economic climate in Belgium, are unlikely to be replaced in the near future.
The announcement came as a particularly heavy blow to a workforce who had
thought their jobs safe, having negotiated a major flexibility and investment
package only four years previously. The plant is generally regarded as being
highly productive and achieving high levels of quality. The decision by
Renault to close this plant in July 1997 has been interpreted by many workers
as a warning that even a willingness to accept more flexible working
practices can in future no longer be regarded as a guarantee for job
security. The predicament of the workers at Vilvoorde has led to an
unprecedented display of worker solidarity, not only among employees at other
Renault production sites in Europe, but also among workers in other troubled
On 19 March 1997, Parliament passed a reform of the Arbeitszeitgesetz(AZG,
Working Time Act) - see Record AT9702102F . This necessitated minor
changes to the Arbeitsruhegesetz(ARG, Leisure Time Act) which were also
passed on 19 March. However, the parliamentary Labour and Social Affairs
Committee, at the behest of the social partners, had introduced wording
allowing more flexibility than hitherto in regard to Sunday work, causing a
major public debate in its wake. In future it will be possible for the social
partners to conclude collective agreements permitting exceptions from the
general ban on Sunday work. They can only do so, the law states, if it is
necessary in order to avoid economic disadvantage or to safeguard employment.
As far as this is feasible, the collective agreement has to specify the
activities to be permissible on Sundays and the time allowed for them. Until
now it was not possible to grant specific exemptions from the ban on Sunday
work except if the technology required continuous production. The Minister of
Labour and Social Affairs could, however, permit a whole industry to work on
Legislative changes have been introduced affecting "atypical" work under the
Contracts of Employment Act, the Study Leave Act and the Occupational Safety
Act. The changes came into force at the beginning of February and they aim to
bring the legal status of persons in such work closer to the status of
persons under a regular employment contract.
The 1994 labour market reform led to a spectacular increase in part-time
employment contracts, which had hardly been used in Spain before that time.
This feature describes this development and points out the main
characteristics of the workers employed under these contracts, who are mainly
Until recent years, largely due to the voluntary system of industrial
relations in the UK, a universal national minimum wage has never been more
than a passing thought. Instead, because of the growing awareness of poor
working conditions and low wages, trade boards were established in 1909 in
certain "sweated trades" to set minimum wages and standards. The areas and
industries under the boards' coverage began to widen, so that by the time
they became known as Wages Councils (WCs) in 1945 they covered some 4.5
million workers. But from the 1960s, the WCs came under increasing criticism
for three main reasons:
On 5 March 1997 the European Commission issued a Memorandum on the
interpretation of the 1977 Directive on business transfers (77/187/EEC) which
aims to clarify certain aspects of the Directive. It also seeks to address
the criticisms levied against the draft Directive to replace the 1977 text,
launched by the Commission in 1994. The proposed draft sought to take into
account the changed business environment following the implementation of the
single market project.
The Ministry of Labour has chosen 20 municipalities in different parts of
Finland to participate in new forms of working time organisation on an
experimental basis. Results so far have been favourable.
After a legal battle lasting more than three years between the management of
La Samaritaine (one of the five large Paris department stores), and its works
council and CGT union branch, two rulings by the highest court in the French
legal system on 13 February 1997, imposed the reinstatement of staff made
redundant, as part of the cancellation of a corporate "downsizing" procedure
(plan social). These rulings reveal the growing role of judges in the
supervision of redundancies.
The major labour market reform legislation of 1994 made important changes to
the framework for collective bargaining in Spain. This feature examines
bargaining trends since 1994, and analyses the positions of the parties
involved and the results of the reform.
The typical trade union member of the future could well be a 30-year-old
female VDU operator, balancing both work and family responsibilities,
according to the TUC. A new report launched at the TUC's women's conference
held in Scarborough on 12-14 March, argues that if unions can rise to the
challenge, the number of women members could increase by as many as 400,000
by the turn of the century. According to the report (/Women and the new
unionism/), women now make up half of the workforce, but only a third are
members of a union. Young women are thought to be particularly difficult to
organise. Only 6% of women employees under the age of 20 years are presently
union members, compared with 24% aged between 20 and 29 years old.
The European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This publication series include the ERM reports, as well as blogs, articles and working papers on restructuring-related events in the EU27 and Norway.
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021, an extraordinary edition conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was first carried out in 1990.
This publication series gathers all overview reports on developments in working life, annual reviews in industrial relations and working conditions produced by Eurofound on the basis of national contributions from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents (NEC). Since 1997, these reports have provided overviews of the latest developments in industrial relations and working conditions across the EU and Norway. The series may include recent ad hoc articles written by members of the NEC.
Eurofound’s work on COVID-19 examines the far-reaching socioeconomic implications of the pandemic across Europe as they continue to impact living and working conditions. A key element of the research is the e-survey, launched in April 2020, with five rounds completed at different stages during 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is complemented by the inclusion of research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic in much of Eurofound’s other areas of work.
Eurofound's representativeness studies are designed to allow the European Commission to identify the ‘management and labour’ whom it must consult under article 154 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This series consists of studies of the representativeness of employer and worker organisations in various sectors.
This series reports on developments in minimum wage rates across the EU, including how they are set and how they have developed over time in nominal and real terms. The series explores where there are statutory minimum wages or collectively agreed minimum wages in the Member States, as well as minimum wage coverage rates by gender.
The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) launched in 1990 and is carried out every five years, with the latest edition in 2015. It provides an overview of trends in working conditions and quality of employment for the last 30 years. It covers issues such as employment status, working time duration and organisation, work organisation, learning and training, physical and psychosocial risk factors, health and safety, work–life balance, worker participation, earnings and financial security, work and health, and most recently also the future of work.
Eurofound’s Flagship report series 'Challenges and prospects in the EU' comprise research reports that contain the key results of multiannual research activities and incorporate findings from different related research projects. Flagship reports are the major output of each of Eurofound’s strategic areas of intervention and have as their objective to contribute to current policy debates.
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) maps and analyses company policies and practices which can have an impact on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as the development of social dialogue in companies. This series consists of outputs from the ECS 2019, the fourth edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2004–2005 as the European Survey on Working Time and Work-Life Balance.
This series reports on and updates latest information on the involvement of national social partners in policymaking. The series analyses the involvement of national social partners in the implementation of policy reforms within the framework of social dialogue practices, including their involvement in elaborating the National Reform Programmes (NRPs).
Eurofound's annual review of minimum wages reports on the development of statutory and collectively agreed minimum wages across the EU and the processes through which they were set. The focus of this year’s report is on the impact of high inflation on the setting of minimum wage rates. In addition, new figures on the net value of minimum wages are presented, along with the latest policy-relevant research in the EU Member States and Norway.
As part of its response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, the EU swiftly activated its Temporary Protection Directive for those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine – enabling displaced persons to settle in the EU and have access to the labour market and basic public services. This policy brief highlights the main barriers encountered by these refugees (over 5 million people to date) when seeking a job and provides suggestions on how to facilitate their integration.
This report explores the potential socio-economic implications of the transition to a climate-neutral economy on different EU regions and groups of people. It adopts a foresight approach to envision potential actions that can be taken to shape the future. After consulting with stakeholders and experts, three scenarios were developed to consider emerging economic and social inequalities at EU and regional level. The report includes policy pointers which outline measures to be taken to achieve a just transition to a sustainable, climate-neutral economy where no one is left behind.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an extraordinary level of provision of social services across the EU. Healthcare and care providers carried much of the burden and, together with essential services, played a crucial role in getting citizens through the crisis. This report explores how public services adapted to the new reality and what role was played by the digital transformation of services. The aim is to contribute to the documentation and analysis of changes in funding, delivery and use of healthcare and social services during the pandemic.
The report investigates the involvement of social partners in the just transition to a climate-neutral economy, with a particular focus on the territorial just transition plans (TJTPs). These TJTPs aim to support regions that are more negatively affected by the just transition and were agreed in a dialogue between the Member States and the European Commission. They provide support to workers in terms of retraining, relocation and securing new jobs for those who are about to become redundant.
Building on previous work by Eurofound, this report will investigate intergenerational dynamics over time. During the 2008 double-dip recession, worrying intergenerational divides appeared in many Member States, and while some of the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is universal, early data suggests disparities across demographic cohorts. Eurofound will examine how different age groups may have been affected in terms of their health, labour market participation, quality of life and financial needs, both in the short term and in the long term.
This report explores how environmental performance has converged – or diverged – among the EU Member States since the early 2000s. With environmental goals piling up at the EU level, is it reasonable to expect Member States to adhere to this emerging EU environmental aquis? And, just as importantly, can we expect Member States to reach these goals at the same time? This report attempts to provide answers to these and other questions high on the political agenda.
This report investigates the potential individual and societal impacts of labour market insecurity, focusing on workers with non-permanent contracts, part-time and self-employed workers, and workers who perceive their job as insecure. It explores the impact of labour market insecurities on health and well-being, social exclusion, trust in people and the perception of fairness, as well as trust in institutions. Policies aimed at reducing labour market instability following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic are also presented.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in telework and other flexible working patterns has increased concerns about the ‘always on’ work culture, which can result in extra – often unpaid –working hours. One way of tackling this is for workers to have the right to disconnect. Drawing on a survey of HR managers and employees, this report explores legislation across EU Member States introducting the right to disconnect. It assesses its implementation in company policies and its impact on working time, work–life balance, health and well-being and workplace satisfaction.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation has soared in the EU with the costs of energy and food prices rising to their highest levels in decades. While EU institutions forecast that inflation will slowly decline from 2025, collective bargaining rounds in 2022 have been unable to adapt to rising inflation and real wage growth has remained below inflation, impacting people with low incomes in particular.