First agreement signed for temporary agency workers

January 2002 saw the conclusion of Austria's first ever collective agreement for temporary agency workers. The agreement sets minimum wages for almost 27,000 workers - mainly male workers in metalworking - even when not hired out to a user company.

After five years of difficult negotiations, the first ever collective agreement for the sector of employment agencies specialised in the hiring-out of labour (Arbeitsüberlassungsgewerbe) was signed on 15 January 2002. It was negotiated by the Metalworking and Textiles Union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Textil, GMT) and the general crafts and trades subunit of the Austrian Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ). The agreement covers almost 27,000 agency workers, who are primarily employed in the metalworking sector. The vast majority of metalworking employees and hence also of temporary agency workers are men. While white-collar workers amongst the agency workers –18% of the total – were already covered by another collective agreement - the agreement for the 'trade' sector (Allgemeines Gewerbe) - the blue-collar workers were not.

As indicated by table 1 below, the number of agency workers hired out has sharply increased over the past 19 years.

Table 1. No. of temporary agency workers, 1990-2001
. Blue-collar workers White-collar workers Total % male
1990 7,439 1,508 9,947 -
1995 10,220 2,283 12,503 88.4%
1998 17,015 3,757 20,772 84.4%
2001 27,271 5,885 33,156 -

Source: GMT, Ministry of Economic and Labour Affairs.

Since the 1990s, the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) has demanded a collective agreement to cover blue-collar workers employed by temporary work agencies even during the time when a worker is not actually hired out to another company (ie the user company). In autumn 1998, the Metals, Mining and Energy Trade Union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Bergbau-Energie, GMBE) - the predecessor union of GMT - had set a deadline of 'early 1999' for the beginning of serious negotiations (AT9906155N). However, no agreement could be reached with the employer side until 2002.

The new collective agreement specifies a minimum wage that is applicable even if the worker is not actually hired out. Moreover, the level of pay must be based on the collectively agreed pay due to comparable employees of the user company for doing comparable work. In any case, the pay must not be lower than the collectively agreed minimum wages for the agency work sector, as set out in table 2 below.

Table 2. Minimum wages for temporary workers
Wage group Hourly wages Monthly wages
1: technician EUR 11.92 EUR 1,990,64
2: qualified skilled worker EUR 9.96 EUR 1,618.23
3: skilled worker EUR 8.45 EUR 1,411.15
4: qualified worker EUR 7.52 EUR 1,255,84
5: semi-skilled worker EUR 6.70 EUR 1,188.90
6: unskilled worker EUR 6.25 EUR 1,046.25

Source: New collective agreement for temporary agency workers.

Besides pay, the collective agreement also provides for protection against dismissal within five days after employment by the user company and assures continued payment in cases of illness, the birth of a child and other eventualities. The agreement takes effect on 1 March 2002.

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