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EIRObserver is the bi-monthly bulletin of the European Industrial Relations Observatory. It contains an edited selection of feature and news items, based on some of the reports supplied for the EIROnline database over each two-month period. On top of this, EIRO also conducts comparative research on specific themes. This issue highlights two recent initiatives in the area of online rights at work - a Belgian national collective agreement; and a code of practice issued by Union Network International. The comparative supplement in this issue of EIRObserver examines the extent of low-paid employment and working poverty across the EU and Norway, highlighting the different definitions used, and examines the factors that lead to low pay. It places the issue in its industrial relations context, considering the role of minimum pay systems, set by law or collective agreement, and of trade union bargaining strength in influencing the extent of low pay, and outlines the views and actions of the social partners and governments.
In October 2002, the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees (Norsk
Kommuneforbund, NKF) and the Norwegian Association of Health and Social Care
Personnel (Norsk Helse- og Sosialforbund, NHS) decided to merge. The new
trade union organisation will be Norway's largest, with approximately 280,000
members, and nearly twice as large as the second-largest union. Both unions
held their national conferences in October 2002, and the decision to
establish a new union through merger received large majorities in both
organisations. The final decision to wind up the two unions will be taken at
extraordinary national conferences in June 2003, and shortly afterwards a
founding meeting will be held, at which the new union will be formally
In 2002, the basic legislative framework for collective bargaining is 75
years' old, and the relevant laws have changed little over this period.
However, certain provisions of the legislation - notably on extending
collective agreements to non-signatory employer, and on applying agreements
to non-union employees - are increasing under debate.
In October 2002, the Italian cabinet approved the 2003 budget law, which
includes measures such as tax cuts, reductions in public administration
expenditure and a range of one-off revenue-generating measures. The social
partners reacted in different ways to the budget. Employers were harshly
critical, while the trade unions were divided in their views.
A number of fatal workplace accidents during 2002, including a number at
Olympic Games worksites, have raised concerns over Greece's increasing level
of accidents at work. Trade unions have responded with strikes at a number of
workplaces affected by major accidents and calls for tighter regulation. The
government has taken a number of measures and promised new legislation.
In October 2002, it was confirmed that the French government will cut over
1,700 posts in the civil service in 2003, mainly in education, finance and
public works. The staffing cuts are linked to decentralisation and reform of
the state on the one hand and, on the other, to the opportunity resulting
from the large numbers of French civil servants currently taking retirement.
The move has led to various strikes, notably in the national education
In October 2002, Spain's CEOE employers' confederation issued a report
examining the country's competitiveness and making proposals for improving
it. In this article we highlight the report's findings and recommendations
related to industrial relations and the labour market. CEOE focuses on issues
such as training, internal flexibility of companies, collective bargaining
and work organisation.
Avec l'introduction des pièces et billets en euros dans les 12 pays de la
'zone euro' en janvier 2002, l'Union économique et monétaire (UEM) de l'UE
est entrée dans une nouvelle phase, où l'évolution des salaires revêt une
importance encore plus grande. L'approfondissement de l'intégration
économique au cours des dernières années a eu des conséquences
importantes sur la politique salariale au sein des États membres (TN0007402S
). En effet, les pays de la zone euro ne pouvant plus utiliser les taux de
change et les taux d'intérêt comme moyens de compensation des
déséquilibres des performances économiques, la politique salariale a dû
jouer un rôle de plus en plus important pour corriger ces déséquilibres.
En outre, dans le cadre de l'UEM, l'évolution des salaires constitue un
facteur clé pour déterminer si l'économie de l'UE connaît une tendance
inflationniste ou déflationniste. L'introduction de l'euro a par ailleurs
amélioré la transparence en matière de comparaison des niveaux de salaire.
On 8 October 2002, the conclusion was announced of a revised agreement
governing the European Works Council (EWC) at Diageo, the UK-based
multinational. The agreement governing the Diageo Europe Forum (DEF) replaces
the original DEF agreement, concluded in 1998 following the formation of
Diageo plc from the merger of Guinness UDV Ireland and Grand Metropolitan.
The company now specialises in the production of a variety of alcohol brands
across the spirits, beer and wine categories, including Guinness, Johnnie
Walker, Smirnoff, Baileys and Cuervo. Its headquarters are in London.
The European Commission issued its Industrial Relations in Europe 2002 
report on 29 October 2002. This follows on from its previous publication,
Industrial Relations in Europe 2000 , issued in March 2000. The 2002
report is divided into three main sections: