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In its latest annual survey of union recognition, published on 21 January
2002, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reports that unions won 470 new union
recognition agreements from employers in 2001 - almost three times the number
(159) secured the previous year.
On 6 December 2001, the Swedish government decided to commission two public
bodies, the Labour Market Board (Arbetsmarknadsstyrelsen) and the National
Institute for Working Life (Arbetslivsinstitutet), to survey the legislation
of the EU Member States' concerning employers' responsibilities in company
closures. Discussion in Sweden on this issue was intensified during 2001
because of a rise in the number of redundancy announcements. An increased
tendency for companies to move their Swedish production abroad has also
caused concern. For example, two well-known multinationals, the US-based
Flextronics (electronics) and the German-based Continental (tyres) recently
decided to end production at their Swedish factories and relocate it to other
European countries (Portugal and Poland). The government has stated on
several occasions that Swedish rules on company relocations might be too
generous for employers. The government believes that closures must be handled
in socially acceptable ways for the employees, and for the often very small
locality where the factory is situated, for which a closure may have major
negative effects. The current problems are especially acute in cases when
activities are moved abroad in order to obtain higher profits.
A governmental committee has been looking at the Swedish sickness insurance
and rehabilitation system, with a brief to examine the consequences of major
increases in the costs of insurance and of the numbers of people taking sick
leave since the late 1990s, as well as to come up with ideas for possible
changes. On 8 January 2002, the chair of the committee, Jan Rydh, presented
its final report, an 'action plan for improved health in working life'
(/Handlingsplan för ökad hälsa i arbetslivet/, SOU 2002:5).
The minority Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarepartiet,
SAP) government announced in its national budget bill for 2002 that it would
present a proposal on 'experimental activities' regarding sabbatical leave in
10 municipal areas, as a result of an agreement with the Left Party
(Vänsterpartiet) and the Green Party (Miljöpartiet De Gröna). The
experiment should start in early 2002 and last to the end of 2004. The
government subsequently agreed on the measure and presented the framework for
the project, which begins in February 2002, in December 2001.
A case of racial discrimination (IE0112228F ) has been established in
Irish employment law for the first time, with an award to a Malaysian doctor
of the following: salary arrears for almost nine months; overtime payments
averaging 29 hours per week over that period; and payment of a 'living out'
allowance for that period..
The Irish government has made new work permit applications for workers from
outside theEuropean Economic Area (EEA) more difficult, by insisting that
applications be accompanied by a letter from the Training and Employment
Authority (FAS), and by introducing a substantially higher application fee.
The new regime, announced in December 2001, applies from 2 January 2002.
In January 2002, a special collective agreement was signed regulating pay and
conditions in Greek banks during the time when both the drachma and the euro
are in circulation - ie up until the end of February 2002. The deal provides
for longer bank-opening hours during this period and a lump-sum payment to
France's MEDEF employers' confederation held an extraordinary congress in
January 2002, at which nine resolutions were passed, calling for major change
in areas such as working time, industrial relations, training, social
security and taxation. MEDEF's proposals are aimed at launching a debate with
both trade unions and political parties in the run-up to major national
elections in the first half of 2002.
In early 2002, company-level pay bargaining has been occurring in French
banks, with varying results. The trade unions in the banking sector have been
attempting to mobilise employees, calling a strike and other action with
mixed success from bank to bank. As well as pay, employment and working
conditions, the unions are seeking improvements in the safety of bank
France's National Federation of Independent Unions (UNSA), founded in 1993,
held its third national conference in January 2002. Currently a grouping of
mainly public sector unions, UNSA is seeking to improve its presence in the
private sector when the next elections for members of industrial tribunals
are held in December 2002, and consequently to assert its representative