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In February 2002, the Belgian federal government agreed 21 economic and
social priorities to be achieved by the end of the current legislature in
mid-2003. A number of these measures should be taken up in the social
partners in negotiations over a new intersectoral agreement for 2003-4, and
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstad has launched dialogue with the partners over
After a summit meeting on 11 February 2002, the presidents of the Austrian
Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) and the
Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ), Fritz
Verzetnitsch and Christoph Leitl respectively, stated that they will go to
any lengths to combat illegal work in Austria. A long-running debate over
measures to end tax evasion and illicit economic activity has regained
momentum in the course of a recent scandal in the road haulage sector. In
order to survive the fierce price competition within the single European
market, it has emerged that a large number of Austria's road haulage
companies are suspected of committing 'social fraud' (ie non-payment of
social contributions and/or taxes) (AT0202203F ). As a consequence, the
social partners announced their intention to introduce a 'seal of approval'
(Gütesiegel) for road haulage companies, certifying that the firms comply
with legal regulations, provide fair working conditions and therefore
contribute to fair competition and road safety. The seal of approval scheme
seeks to support and encourage the vast majority of companies in the branch
that are acting properly.
According to an enquiry carried out in February 2002 by the business
editorial staff at /Svenska Dagbladet/, the conservative Stockholm daily
newspaper, the management of about half of the largest information and
communications technology (ICT) consultancy companies quoted on the stock
exchange want to reduce the salaries of their staff. At least 10 of the 20
largest companies want to freeze or reduce pay levels during 2002. The goal
for the businesses as a whole is to decrease their total wage costs by 10%.
Furthermore, in 12 of the companies the managers say that they want to
establish a closer relationship between pay and results, returning to the
more flexible wage systems that existed in the sector in the 1980s.
In February 2002, the Portuguese national airline, TAP, announced greatly
improved financial results for 2001, cutting its losses by half compared with
2000, and more than meeting the target set in its recovery plan. The results
surprised many, given the current problems in the international airline
industry. TAP workers who have contributed towards the improved results are
to be rewarded with a bonus, which is to be awarded by the middle of 2002,
but trade unions are seeking pay increases following a freeze in 2001
Almeida, Ana Isabel; Cristovam, Maria LuisaEurWORK
Spain has a very high level of temporary employment, especially among women.
However, in recent years the temporary employment rate has been falling
slightly in the private sector, while increasing in the public sector, which
previously had a relatively low level of such non-permanent employment. The
public sector is a major employer of women and its female employees are much
more likely than their male colleagues to work on temporary contracts. We
review the situation at the beginning of 2002.
A time credit scheme introduced by the Belgian federal government in January
2002, which includes the right for employees to take a career break of at
least one year, has become the focus of a dispute between Wallonia and
Flanders. The Flemish regional government wants to complement the incentives
provided by the federal law with additional benefits, which the Walloon
government regards as a move to 'regionalise' competences which should lie
with the federal state. The trade union movement is divided on the issue.
Late 2001 saw three days of strikes at the Belgian Post Group, in protest
against management's plans to close smaller post offices and reduce the
number of sorting centres in advance of EU-wide liberalisation of postal
In January 2002, a major scandal broke over the alleged illegal employment of
drivers from central and eastern European countries by Kralowetz, an
international road haulage company with its registered office in Luxembourg.
The affair has uncovered serious shortcomings in Luxembourg's system for
monitoring international transport companies registered there, and has caused
a major political controversy.
At its national congress held in February 2002, Cgil, Italy's largest trade
union confederation, focused largely on its relationship with the
centre-right government and the latter's current reform initiatives. The
possibility of a general strike raised by Cgil was strong rejected by Cisl
and Uil, the two other main union confederations. Sergio Cofferati was
re-elected as Cgil general secretary.
A major fatal explosion at a chemicals factory in Toulouse in September 2001
has sparked off a debate in France on the risks to health generated by
companies. This issue no longer seems confined to the changing nature of the
risks of work-related accidents encountered by employees, but now include the
threats that some companies pose to their neighbouring populations.