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In December 2001, employers' organisations and trade unions in the French
craft industry concluded an agreement on developing social dialogue. It
provides for extra resources for both sides to improve their representative
structures. The deal has been criticised by employers' organisations outside
the craft industry.
In January 2002, the Finnish social partners expressed their views on the
country's taxation levels, in the light of work being carried out to prepare
future government tax policy. According to the Confederation of Finnish
Industry and Employers (TT), the Finnish taxation level is so high that many
of its large member companies are considering moving their head offices to
other countries. The trade unions, while recognising that it is important to
employees that taxation should be moderate, nevertheless defend taxes as the
financial basis for the welfare state.
A new flexible retirement system came into force in Spain on 1 January 2002,
following the enactment of a tripartite agreement on pensions signed in April
2001. The aim is to extend working life beyond the legal retirement age of 65
and the real average retirement age of 62.5.
At the end of 2001, the Spanish government increased the national minimum
wage by 2% for 2002, in line with the forecast inflation rate. Trade unions
had called for a higher increase, pointing out that the Spanish minimum wage
is very low in EU terms.
In the light of the crisis in the aviation industry following the terrorist
attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001, the Spanish airline Iberia has
introduced a redundancy procedure - approved by the labour authorities in
December - which affects over 2,500 workers at all levels.
Dialogue between the Spanish social partners focused in late 2001 on the
long-running controversy over the cost of dismissal - which is regarded as
high in Spain - and its relationship with the country's high level of
temporary employment. Employers and trade unions have made proposals on
reform in this area.
On 13 December 2001, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published a
consultation document, Towards equality and diversity , outlining how the
government intends to implement the requirements of the EU Directives on
equal treatment in employment and occupation (2000/78/EC )(EU0102295F )
and race discrimination (2000/43/EC )(EU0006256F ), both adopted in
2000. The consultation document sets out proposals for new legislation to
prohibit discrimination in work and training on grounds of age, religion and
sexual orientation and for amendments to the existing Disability
Discrimination and Race Relations Acts.
On 17 December 2001, a conciliation committee made up of representatives of
the European Parliament (EP) and EU Council of Ministers agreed a joint text
of the long-debated Directive on the information and consultation of
employees. The move follows the EP's adoption in October 2001 of a series of
amendments (EU0110206F ) to the Council's 'common position' draft of the
Directive (EU0106219F ). As not all the proposed amendments were
acceptable to the Council, the draft Directive entered the conciliation phase
of the EU's co-decision procedure, resulting in agreement on a compromise
text. Final adoption of the Directive is now subject to the formal
ratification of the joint text by the EP and the Council, expected in
The introduction of euro notes and coins across the 12 EU Member States in
the 'euro-zone' on 1 January 2002 has prompted renewed debate in the UK about
the prospects of joining the European single currency. Comments on the issue
by the leaders of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the employers'
organisation CBI received widespread media coverage over the holiday period.
/The Irish Times/ daily newspaper plans to cut its 710-strong workforce by
250, in a move aimed at trimming losses that are expected to reach over IEP
17 million in 2002. The company has targeted the 250 redundancies to achieve
savings of IEP 10 million annually and hopes to cut another IEP 7.5 million
from non-wage operating costs. It had planned to begin the redundancy
programme by the end of January 2002. However, implementation is likely to be
stalled pending negotiations with the company's group of trade unions.