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Law 21/96, which aims to reduce the working week to 40 hours, has given rise
to labour disputes in certain sectors and some controversial statements. An
official communication released by the Secretary of State for Employment in
March attempts to shed light on the areas of concern.
Akzo Nobel has announced that it will not observe its 1995 collective
agreement and that it will abandon the introduction of a standard 36-hour
week as of 1 July 1997. Its new proposals have divided the unions.
On 18 March, the Government submitted a reform package to Parliament
addressing five civil service issues, among them the implementation of EC
Directive on working time (93/104/EC) in the civil service and more flexible
working time rules. Here we focus on the latter point. The new regulations
are expected to be voted on by Parliament in time to take effect on 1 June
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 ).
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.
Industrial action has accompanied trade unions' pay demands in Spain's public
administration since late 1996, and the threat of further action has been
made if negotiations are not started immediately.
Telecom Eireann's plan to introduce personal contracts for 300 of its
managers who report directly to senior executives must be seen in the context
of the company's effort to implement a major programme of change to meet the
requirements of EU-driven deregulation requirements. A Telecom redundancy
package was also reactivated recently, one of several in recent years, as the
company seeks to reduce costs. It is also to enter talks with the union
representing general workers in Telecom, the Communications Workers Union, on
a proposed IEP 110 million cost savings plan.
February 1997 saw a major strike in Spain's road transport sector. The
dispute was well supported, mainly in the north of the country, but was
called off without winning many concessions from the Government.
On Sunday 2 February 1997, a so-called "multicoloured march for jobs" drew
about 50,000 people from all over Belgium to the streets of Clabecq, a small
industrial town on the borders of the provinces of Brabant and Hainaut.
The European Commission has recently published its report on progress made in
the implementation of equitable wage policies since 1993. The aim of
providing all employees with an equitable wage was enshrined in the Charter
of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, which was adopted by 11 member
states (with the exception of the UK) in 1989. In accordance with the 1989
social Action Programme, the Commission published an Opinion in 1993, which
stated that the pursuit of an equitable wage must be seen as part of the
general drive to achieve higher productivity and employment creation, and to
foster good relations between the two sides of industry. The member states
were encouraged to give substance to their commitment made in adopting the
Social Charter, by working towards the establishment of an equitable wages
policy. This was to be achieved through greater labour market transparency
with regard to wages. The social partners were also called upon to contribute
to the achievement of this aim.