Under the terms of the Works Constitution Act  (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz,
§§ 111f), a procedure known as "reconcilement of interests "
(Interessenausgleich) aims at reconciling the positions of the employer and
the workforce in case of a proposed substantial alteration of the
establishment, or of bankruptcy. This involves weighing the respective
interests against one another, as well as reaching an agreement on the
procedure of change and the necessary human resource planning. Detailed
arrangements for the subsequent implementation of the changes are then
subject to the co-determination rights of the works council . In cases
where the employer makes no attempt to arrive at an agreed reconcilement of
interests, or without compelling reasons fails to abide by one, employees who
are dismissed or suffer economic disadvantage as a result may claim
compensation for the loss of their job. A social plan  (Sozialplan) is a
programme drawn up in the form of a special works agreement 
(Betriebsvereinbarung) between the employer and the works council, and
resembles a special form of redundancy programme. It contains the
compensation packages and the human resource policies available to the
employees affected by the changes. There is no obligation to draw up a social
plan, provided that: the proposed alteration to the establishment consists
solely of dismissals; certain maximum limits in terms of a percentage of the
total workforce are not exceeded; or the case involves a newly formed
In a Communication published in March 1997, the European Commission calls for
the modernisation, adaptation and improvement of social protection systems in
the member states. It argues that these systems, most of which were
established decades ago, no longer conform with the changing economic and
social conditions of today's society. The Commission sees a particular need
for social protection systems, which currently account for 28% of total EU
GDP, to be adapted to:
At the beginning of March the first steps were taken towards the creation of
the first "European super union". One of Britain's biggest trade unions, the
General, Municipal and Boilermakers' Union (GMB), signed a joint membership
agreement with the German chemical workers' union. The deal between the GMB
and IG Chemie-Papier-Keramik means that 1.8 million workers will be entitled
to joint membership. Although the two unions may not provide the same
services, UK workers in Germany can expect legal advice, support from
representatives, and training facilities, while German workers in the UK can
expect legal advice, health and safety information and financial benefits
(Record DE9703206N ).
Health and safety at work has arisen as a very serious matter of social
concern over recent years and has become a focus of interest for both the
state and the social institutions concerned. The magnitude and complexity of
the problem and the need to find direct and effective solutions have induced
both employers and employees to examine the problem of occupational hazards
and conditions affecting the working environment in general. It is estimated
that in Greece the national economy is burdened by GRD 20 billion a year due
to accidents at work (excluding costs of medical care). The Social Insurance
Foundation (IKA) alone receives 25,000 reports of accidents at work a year.
The problem is even bigger if we add in the cost of occupational illnesses
which remain undiagnosed, since these are ignored by the official statistics.
The Government has published a working document, entitled "Maritime and ports
policy at the approach of the 21st Century", for public debate. In the
document it proposes a number of measures to deregulate dock work, and the
National Federation of Dockers' Unions has criticised the lack of prior
dialogue and is opposing the new proposals.
Workers in the performing arts have been protesting about threats to their
special unemployment benefit scheme arising from employers' positions in the
recent renewal of the agreement on the general UNEDIC scheme.
The cause of the industrial unrest was the announcement by the ruling
Conservative-Liberal coalition Government that it was planning to scale back
annual subsidies for the - basically west - German hard coal (Steinkohle)
industry dramatically. During the ensuing protests, Germany saw a human chain
of more than 90 kilometres straight through the Ruhr coal heartland, and
sympathy demonstrations from east German brown coal miners. Miners in the
Ruhr and the Saar areas went on strike. Tens of thousands of miners took to
the streets, occupied pits and town halls, and blocked roads as well as the
Bonn headquarters of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling Christian Democratic
Party (CDU) and its coalition partner, the Free Democrat Party (FDP). In the
days before the compromise, the protests of the rank and file seemed to get
out of control of the miners' union, IG Bergbau und Energie (IGBE), and its
chair, Hans Berger. For the first time in German post-war history, furious
miners even entered the restricted area surrounding government buildings in
Bonn where no public meetings or marches may be held. As an "act of
solidarity with miners fighting for their existence" the Social Democratic
Party (SPD) temporarily boycotted a meeting in which opposition and coalition
politicians were discussing the reform of the German tax system. When the
miners laid siege to Bonn, Chancellor Kohl temporarily put off talks with the
union leaders to avoid having to negotiate under duress.
The European Commission adopted its first annual report on equal
opportunities between men and women in the European Union at its meeting on 5
March 1997. The report: outlines the embodiment of equality principles in
European Union policies; examines gender differences in the EU labour market;
looks at Community actions to improve the interaction between work and family
life; explores initiatives to aimed at achieving a greater involvement of
women in decision-making bodies; outlines initiatives aimed a enabling women
to exercise their rights; and provides an update on the recommendations of
the 1995 Beijing Conference. Commenting on the publication of the report,
commissioner for social affairs Padraig Flynn said that this was the first in
what will be a series of annual reports covering the Union's policies on
equal opportunities as a whole. Commissioner Flynn stated that the aim of the
report was to give visible expression to EU policies on equal opportunities
between men and women, to encourage debate on the progress achieved and
policies to develop, and to act as a reference point for the Commission,
member states and countries applying for membership of the Union.
Intervention from the European Commission has compelled the Belgian
Government to amend its procedures for reducing social security costs (the
Maribel system) and to extend them across-the-board to all sectors of the
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 2009, the second edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2004–2005 as the European Establishment Survey on Working Time and Work-Life Balance.
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