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At a press conference held on 13 November 2002, the association of Austrian
large retailers and chain stores (Handelsverband, HV), a lobbying
organisation which does not engage in collective bargaining, called for an
extension of shop opening hours from Monday to Saturday, from the current
legal maximum of 66 hours per week to 78 hours. Arguing that all candidate
countries for European Union membership have far more liberal shop opening
legislation than Austria, HV also proposes allowing shops to open on Sunday.
Otherwise, there will be a substantial shift of Austrian purchasing to the
new EU Member States, claims HV, which in particular represents large
clothing and food retailers. HV's call came only a few days before a general
election, and was addressed to the future government.
Directive 2000/34/EC  of the European Parliament and of the Council,
adopted in 22 June 2000 (EU0005249F ), extended Council Directive
(93/104/EC)  concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working
time to cover road, rail, air, sea, and inland waterways transport,
seafishing, offshore work and the activities of junior doctors - sectors and
activities excluded from the earlier Directive. EU Member States must
implement the 2000 Directive by 1 August 2003.
During November 2002, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reiterated
its strong criticism (UK0203101N ) of the proposed EU Directive on working
conditions for temporary (agency) workers  (EU0204205F ). The CBI’s
offensive, timed to coincide with the European Parliament’s first reading
vote on 21 November (EU0212201N ), highlights the damage that UK employers
believe the Directive will have on the employment prospects of agency workers
if it is adopted without significant amendment.
In November 2002, the boards of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities
(Svenska Kommunförbundet) and the Federation of Swedish County Councils
(Landstingsförbundet) decided unanimously to propose a merger to create a
new employers' association for almost all of the local government sector. A
new head office might be in place at the end of 2004, if the organisations'
member employers agree to the merger, which they seem likely to do.
On 29 November 2002, the Minister of Health, Dagfinn Høybråten, presented a
government White Paper  proposing a total ban on smoking in bars and
restaurants. Stricter legislative measures to combat passive smoking in bars
and restaurants have long been an important priority for trade unions in the
catering sector. If and when approved in parliament (Stortinget), the revised
Tobacco Protection Act, including a total ban on smoking in public places,
would come into effect on 1 January 2004.
In October 2002, a new company agreement was signed by trade unions and
management at the Italian confectionery group, Ferrero. The agreement
contains a number of innovations, notably the experimental introduction of
job-sharing, variable pay and the future establishment of new joint bodies.
Air Lib, France's second-largest airline, is in financial difficulties in
late 2002 and management has announced a rescue plan involving 500 job
losses, to trade union opposition. Despite a decision by the Ministry of
Transport to extend the company's operating licence and to defer debt
repayment to January 2003, concerns remain over the company's future as a
In November 2002, a collective agreement applying the new national incomes
policy agreement for 2003-4 was concluded in the Finnish metalworking sector.
The agreement sets the minimum wage increase at 2.6% in 2003 and at 1.8% in
2004. The deal is likely to be followed by agreements in other sectors .
Negotiations over a new collective agreement for the Finnish merchant
shipping sector were interrupted in November 2002 due to a disagreement
concerning the use of foreign labour. The employers are seeking a legislative
amendment, opposed by the trade union, which would allow the use of foreign
labour on Finnish vessels.
On 4 November 2002, the European social dialogue working group for the
telecommunications sector met to review progress. The group discussed a new
work programme for 2003, which includes issues such as the age profile of the
telecommunications sector workforce and a range of topics relating to call
centre workers, including health and safety, skills and training, staff
turnover and working conditions. A seminar on EU enlargement which has had to
be postponed was reconvened for June 2003. Further, cooperation on regulatory
and competition issues between the sectoral social partners - the
telecommunications section of UNI-Europa (the European regional organisation
of the global trade union organisation, Union Network International, UNI) and
the European Public Telecommunication Network Operators Association (ETNO)
for employers - was discussed. ETNO agreed to give a written response to
UNI’s policy position by mid-December 2002.