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On 18 October 2002, Cgil, one of Italy's three main trade union
confederations, organised a one-day general strike against the government's
economic policy and other recent developments. Estimates on the proportion of
workers taking part in the strike varied from 30% to 58%..
In late 2002, the Italian banking sector is facing further restructuring and
job losses. Economic forecasters estimate that there will be 6,000-7,000
redundancies over 2003-4, while trade unions are concerned that 15,000-20,000
jobs could go.
During the week between the end of the first 48-hour strike held in its
current pay dispute by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) on 13-15 November
(UK0210104F  and UK0211107F ) and the eight-day stoppage due to begin
on 22 November, intensive negotiations took place between the FBU and the
local authority fire service employers. Talks continued into the early hours
of 22 November and culminated in a draft agreement. This linked pay increases
equating to 16% on the total paybill by November 2003 to the completion of
negotiations over the modernisation of the fire service. The FBU indicated
that it was prepared to call off the eight-day stoppage on the basis of the
proposed deal. However, the government was not prepared to endorse the terms
of the draft agreement and the strike duly began at 09.00 as planned. FBU
general secretary Andy Gilchrist said that government intervention had
'wrecked' the chance of avoiding the strike. Deputy Prime Minister John
Prescott said that it would have been irresponsible to sanction a deal that
the government had not had the opportunity to evaluate properly.
Following elections in September 2002, a new government was appointed in
Slovakia in October. It is a coalition of three parties which had been in the
previous government - the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (Slovenská
Demokratická a Krestanská Únia, SDKÚ), the Hungarian Coalition Party
(Magyar Koalíció Pártja/Strana Madarskej Koalície, MKP/SMK) and the
Christian-Democratic Movement (Krestansko Demokratické Hnutie, KDH) - plus
the New Civic Alliance (Aliancia Nového Obcana, ANO). The principal
difference is that two parties in the former government - the Democratic Left
Party (Strana Demokratickej Lavice, SDL) and the Party of Civil Understanding
(Strana Obcianskeho Porozumenia, SOP), both located more to the left of the
political continuum - are not members of the new coalition, pushing the
government towards the right. The new administration characterises itself as
centre-right. Less than a month later, trade unions started to prepare
protest activities against the new government's policies. On 10 November,
Ivan Saktor, the president of the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Slovak
Republic (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR),
announced that a first protest action - a demonstration in front of the
Office of the Government - would be organised on 13 November.
On 1-2 November 2002, the northern region of the Services Industrial
Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), Ireland's largest trade union, held
its regional congress. While issues such as union representation, wage
bargaining, racism and redundancy were among the main topics discussed,
perhaps the most interesting comment came from a branch member who claimed
the union is losing top shop steward  s due to 'bullying' by some members.
Seamus Murphy from the union’s Donegal branch told the conference that,
while he believes that the role of the union shop steward has not
fundamentally changed, the union’s membership has. He voiced concern that
the union was losing the 'cream of the crop' of its shop stewards, a
development which he partly attributed to shop stewards suffering abuse at
the hands of members.
Talks on a new national agreement to replace Ireland's current three-year
partnership agreement, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness 
(IE0003149F ) are set to start in late 2002 (IE0210202N ). In this
context, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC ) has added its voice
to growing calls for a return to the type of behaviour and actions that
underpinned the success of the Irish economy in recent years. According to
the NCC, the 'bedrock' of that success has been 'sustainable, moderate wage
growth, low inflation, productivity gains, social partnership and a
competitive business environment'. These observations come in two NCC
reports, theAnnual competitiveness report  and the Competitiveness
challenge  2002, both of which were published in November 2002.
The Greek Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) has called strike action
in December 2002 to express its opposition to the government's incomes policy
and the low increases in pay for public servants included in the 2003 budget.
ADEDY is calling for an increase in the minimum wage for public servants,
claiming that their pay is among the lowest in the EU.
On 13 November 2002, a sectoral collective agreement for the civil service
was signed for 2003, the first to be concluded in accordance with Article 145
of the recent Act on the Civil Service (No. 312/2001 in the Collection of
Laws, as amended) (SK0206102F ). The conclusion of this agreement follows
eight months after a new collective agreement was signed for the public
service (SK0209101N ) and the Act on the Civil Service came into force.
The draft of the civil service agreement was discussed at several stages and
twice at government meetings. The deal was signed less than a month after a
new government took office.
In late 2002, the Polish government decided to increase employers'
contributions to the Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund, which is used to
cover the wage arrears due to the employees of bankrupt businesses. The most
recent control performed by the Social Insurance Institution found that the
Fund is not properly managed and is almost empty.
The comparative study was compiled on the basis of individual national
reports submitted by EIRO's national centres. The text of each of these
national reports is available below in Word format. The reports have not been
edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living
and Working Conditions. The national reports were drawn up in response to a
questionnaire  and should be read in conjunction with it.