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The use of temporary agency workers in Denmark has been steadily increasing.
In 1992, there were 73 registered temporary work agencies with about 3,000
agency workers, which grew to 396 agencies with 21,000 employees BY 1999
(according to figures from Statistics Denmark [Danmarks Statistik]). If the
growth rate recorded since 1997 has continued, there are probably about 370
agencies with about 35,000 workers in December 2002. In 2001, the agencies'
turnover was more than DKK 3 billion - a 10-fold increase over a decade.
Between 1 March and 31 May 2002, works council election  s took place in
German companies under the terms of the new Works Constitution Act
(Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG) which has been in force since July 2001
(DE0107234F ). The BetrVG determines the legal framework for
co-determination at the level of the establishment  in the private sector,
through works council  s. Works councils are employee representative
bodies with a range of co-determination, information and consultation rights.
Works council elections are held every four years between 1 March and 31 May
(DE9810180F ). The reformed BetrVG aims to increase the number of works
councils, improve the representation of women on works councils and enhance
the operating conditions of works councils.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the German system of industry-wide
collective bargaining has seen a continued process of decentralisation and
flexibilisation. While part of the process has been associated with the
increasing use of 'opening clauses' ('Öffnungsklauseln') which – under
certain conditions – allow companies to apply lower standards for wages,
hours and working conditions than provided in the collective agreement
(DE0103212F ), some observers have also been concerned about declining
membership of employers' associations.
In August 2002, a woman was jailed  for three months for assaulting a
pregnant teacher during an argument over the price of a school trip. Also
during 2002, another teacher was left with a visual impairment after she was
head-butted by a four-year-old. Earlier in the year, a bus driver needed
surgery after being shot in the face with an airgun. These are just some
examples of the everyday risk workers in some sectors and occupations face of
verbal abuse and physical violence, ranging from shouting and swearing to
punching and stabbing. Survey evidence, together with evidence gathered by
trade unions, suggests that public sector workers and those whose work
involves direct contact with the public are especially vulnerable. Such
evidence was presented on 2 December 2002 at a joint Trades Union Congress
(TUC), Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Health and Safety
Executive (HSE) seminar.
Ireland’s ODEI-Equality Tribunal is an independent quasi-judicial body
established in 1999, whose core function is to investigate, and/or mediate,
complaints of unlawful discrimination at work (IE0008218N ). According to
the Equality Tribunal, its new mediation service is, on average, three times
quicker than the alternative equality dispute resolution option – a formal
investigation decided by an equality officer . Equality cases that have
resulted in mediated agreements have been completed in just six months (from
the original date of referral to the date of signing the agreement), compared
with an average of 18 months in employment investigation cases (again, from
the original date of referral to the date of decision).
In December 2002, the Finnish social partners formally signed a new two-year
incomes policy agreement, which covers over 90% of wage earners. A few
sectors which are strategically important for Finnish industry, such as
seafaring and transport, rejected the deal. The cost effect of the of the
agreed wage increases is 2.9% in 2003 and 2.2% in 2004.
The third annual programme of work based on the Foundation's four-year programme 2001-2004: Analysing and anticipating change to support socio-economic progress. Among the aims of the programme are to: strengthen monitoring activities and strategic research in the three core areas of expertise (Living Conditions, Working Conditions, Industrial Relations) and EMCC; meet specific needs of key policy audiences; incorporate candidate countries in all main areas of activity; increase existing collaboration with the European Commission and strengthen relationships with the other EU Institutions; and reinforce the Foundation's role as a forum for debate.
In November 2002, the Dutch government and social partners reached a 'social
agreement' for 2003, including a pay increase limit of 2.5% - the first such
centrally agreed wage ceiling for a decade. Under the agreement, the
government has released a sum of EUR 1 billion to meet the social partners'
demands, including cuts in tax and social security contributions.
On 15 November 2002, Italian metalworkers' trade unions organised a one-day
general strike across the sector. The action focused on supporting
negotiations over the restructuring plan and large-scale job losses announced
at the Fiat auto group and at putting pressure on the government to draw up a
national industrial policy, at a time when the Italian metalworking sector is
experiencing major problems.
On 29-30 November 2002, Cgil, one of Italy's three main trade union
confederations, organised a demonstration in Naples in favour of the
development of the country's southern regions and against the government's
recent 2003 budget law.