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In its response to the Commission's September 1996 Communication on the
development of the social dialogue (see Record EU9702102F ), UNICE (the
Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe) welcomes the
opportunity for debate and calls for a reinforcement of consultation with the
social partners. However, it argues that the treatment of fundamentally
different processes in one Communication adds a source of confusion to the
debate. These varied processes include: the consultation and negotiation
within the meaning of Article 118B of the EC Treaty and Article 3.1 of the
Agreement on social policy; Advisory Committees; the Standing Committee on
Employment; the joint sectoral committees and informal working groups;
tripartite bodies; joint operational initiatives; European Works Councils,
and the social dialogue in trans-boundary region. UNICE feels that the
Communication should have:
On 13 March 1997, Handelsanställdas förbund (Commercial Employees' Union)
sued the company behind the 7-Eleven chain of shops for SEK 1 million
compensation for breach of the collective agreement. The agreement in
question is in fact a combination of two, which were agreed last summer in an
attempt to settle a dispute concerning the unsocial hours bonus.
Wage bargaining in the private sector commenced on 10 March 1997 with
negotiations between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and
theConfederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO). So far the
question of voluntary early retirement has been the most difficult issue and,
after around one week, LO broke off the negotiations. Mediation was due to
commence the first week after the Easter holidays.
The issue of the use of national and European subsidies to support employment
in a particular country, region or sector, has come under the spotlight in
recent weeks in the context of the controversy which has arisen from
Renault's announcement of the closure of its factory at Vilvoorde in Belgium
(see Record EU9703108F ). Renault's request for subsidies to expand its
operations in Spain was blocked by European competition policy commissioner,
Karel Van Miert, in order to investigate whether EU funding was being used to
transfer employment to a region offering lower wage and social costs.
On 13 March 1997, the readers of Sweden's leading morning paper /Dagens
Nyheter/ learnt about an unusual appeal, drawn up jointly by the pugnacious
chair of Handelsanställdas förbund (Commercial Employees' Union), the
leaders of the two employers' organisations in commerce and the managing
directors of three leading retail chains.
On 19 March 1997, the European Commission launched the second stage of
consultations with the social partners under the Maastricht Agreement on
social policy on the proposal for an EU policy to counter sexual harassment
at work. At this second stage, the social partners will be able to choose
whether to go down the route of negotiation - leading to a framework
agreement which can be given legal validity at the EU level. The alternative
would be to submit their views in anticipation of a policy initiative
emanating from the Commission.
On 18 March 1997, eight trade unions and 12 employers' organisations in
industry concluded an agreement on cooperation and the regulation of pay. Its
aim is to promote growth, profitability and competitiveness in industry. As
such, claim the parties, it will provide the necessary prerequisite for a
reduction of unemployment and form the basis for improvements in pay and good
According to the yearly wage statistics from the Danish Employers'
Confederation (DA), 1996 was the most conflict-free year for the private
sector labour market in the 1990s. From 1995 to 1996, the number of
unofficial strikes - defined as those in contravention of a collective
agreement - fell from 1,740 to 791 and the number of working days lost
decreased by 70% to 52,808 in 1996. Although there was an overall decrease in
working days lost, the proportion of working days lost due to wage
disagreements increased from 45% to 52% and conflicts related to redundancies
and dismissals increased from 5% to 13%. Between 1995 and 1996 secondary
action fell drastically, from 34% to 9% of the total number of working days
lost. This can be attributed to the 1995 bus conflict ("RiBus-konflikten"),
one of the longest disputes in post-war Danish industrial relations.