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  • Farmers protest as Czech agriculture declines

    At the end of October 2009, a nationwide protest of farmers took place against the low purchase prices for milk, which was organised in regions by the farmers themselves. In at least eight localities across the Czech Republic, farmers poured hundreds of thousands of litres of milk into fields. The move was a mark of protest against its low purchase prices, which have recently dropped below the production cost. The farmers are concerned that they will have to send a large proportion of their cattle to be slaughtered.
  • Incomes and social benefits of energy workers safeguarded

    On 6 October 2009, after less than a month of negotiations, the social partners in Bulgaria’s energy sector signed a new sectoral collective agreement for a two-year term. The swift adoption of the branch agreement is due to consensus being reached between employers and trade unions because of the current economic crisis. They recognised that, on the one hand, it was not possible to increase wages but, on the other, employees’ interests needed to be protected. The social partners decided to maintain the wage parameters agreed in the branch agreement in 2007 and to increase some forms of workers’ compensation. The main reasons for the crisis in the sector are the stagnation of the markets, a reduction of customers and a decline in the possibilities for credit.
  • Social dialogue on postal liberalisation hits dead end

    Directive 2008/06/EC [1] amending Directive 97/67/EC with regard to the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services was adopted on 20 February 2008. It envisages the complete liberalisation of the postal services market by 31 December 2010 at the latest. However, 11 countries, including Luxembourg, are benefiting from an extension until 31 December 2012. At present, P&T Luxembourg [2] is continuing to handle national and international mailing pieces weighing less than 50 grammes. After the complete liberalisation of the postal market, any operator will be able to collect, transport, sort and distribute mailing pieces of any weight. [1] [2]
  • Reform of pay system for public employees

    The idea of merging all pieces of public wage legislation into one law dates back to November 2005, when it was included in a protocol between the Government of Romania (Guvernul României [1]) and the National Alliance of Budgetary Trade Unions ‘SED LEX’ (Alianţa Naţională a Sindicatelor Bugetarilor ‘SED LEX’, Alianţa SED LEX [2]) (*RO0504104F* [3]). The parties to the protocol agreed that a bill should be drafted by the end of June 2006. Later that year, the trade unions accused the government of not having kept its side of the bargain by the due date, and demanded – in light of Romania’s accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007 – that the national minimum net salary for public servants should be €350 a month. The trade unions argued that the salary of similar employees in central and eastern European countries was €470 a month. [1] [2] [3]
  • Controversy over increased use of employment suspension arrangements

    Trade unions in Austria have issued claims that, since the beginning of the current global economic downturn, companies have increasingly made use of so-called suspension arrangements (/Aussetzverträge/). Such arrangements provide for the temporary suspension of employment of individual employees – in such cases, the employer and the employee agree to terminate the employment relationship [1] and to re-establish it after a certain period of time. In formal terms, these arrangements can only be concluded on a voluntary basis. However, according to the Union of Salaried Employees, Graphical Workers and Journalists (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten – Druck, Journalismus, Papier, GPA-DJP [2]), employers regularly put pressure on employees to agree to contracts temporarily suspending employment. It is argued that companies may prefer suspension arrangements over other instruments for coping with the consequences of the economic crisis, such as short-time working arrangements. Temporary suspension arrangements tend to be more favourable for the companies both legally and in terms of costs. [1] [2]
  • Ombudsman issues results of strike law review

    In the autumn of 2008, Hungary’s Ombudsman, Máté Szabó, launched a comprehensive review of the country’s Strike Act. The review is seeking to enhance the enforcement of the basic right to strike [1], as provided for under the Constitution, and to develop strike law practices. In more recent years, strikes and related debates have underlined how the relevant rules have become obsolete and vague. The results of this review, which were presented at a conference in October 2009, are summarised here. [1]
  • Controversy over job retention plan at RBC Dexia

    In September 2009, the management of RBC Dexia [1] – a services company for institutional investors owned by Dexia [2] and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC [3]) – announced the relocation of its accounts department to Malaysia. At the time of the reorganisation, 110 jobs in Luxembourg were under threat. RBC Dexia had specified that it wanted to achieve the job cuts ‘mainly through the reduction of outside personnel’. Thus, neither fixed-term nor interim employment contracts were renewed. Subsequently, negotiations with a view to establishing a ‘job retention plan’ were initiated. [1] [2] [3]
  • Trade unions split over metalworking sector agreement

    The draft agreement [1] on renewing the industry-wide agreement for the metalworking sector, signed on 15 October 2009, marks an important development in Italian industrial relations. The settlement covers around 1.6 million workers and has traditionally represented the most important private sector collective agreement in Italy. It is often used as a model for agreement renewals in other sectors. [1]
  • Volán bus unions conclude agreement with government

    At the end of the summer of 2009, the government announced that it would undertake the restructuring of the Hungarian public transport system with immediate effect. According to the plans (*HU1001029I* [1]), railway lines that are less frequently used would be closed and substituted by bus services, provided by Volán [2] companies. This would result in savings of some HUF 70 billion (about €258 million as at 26 January 2010) in the sector. [1] [2]
  • Trade unions reject austerity measures in public sector

    Due to budget constraints, the Romanian government (Guvernul României [1]) issued, on the last day of 2008, an emergency decree forbidding the right to accumulated pension earnings and salaries from public funds. The measure triggered protests by both sectoral and national trade union confederations [2]. At the same time, the Ombudsman (Avocatul Poporului, AP [3]) referred the decree to the Constitutional Court of Romania (Curtea Constituţională a României, CCR [4]), claiming that it violated the right to work [5] and the right to a pension (*RO0909019I* [6]). [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]