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A high-level task force on skills and mobility was set up by the European
Commission in June 2001 (EU0107225N ) with the remit of looking into ways
in which to increase labour market mobility within the European Union and
examining how to increase the skills levels of Europe's workforce. The task
force's report  was published on 20 December 2001, containing a total of
nine recommendations as follows:
A common statement on fighting child and forced labour  was signed on 30
November 2001 by the main world-level social partners in the chocolate and
cocoa sector. On the trade union side this was the International Union of
Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers'
Associations (IUF). On the employer side, the signatory parties included a
range of national and international bodies (such as the US Chocolate
Manufacturers' Association, the Cocoa Association of London, the Cocoa
Merchants' Association of America, the European Cocoa Association, CAOBISCO
and the International Cocoa Organisation) representing all major interests in
the global cocoa and chocolate industry, including the major chocolate
manufacturers. Three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also signed (the
Child Labor Coalition, Free The Slaves and the US National Consumers League).
The common statement was witnessed by the International Labour Organisation
The Spanish government took over the six-month Presidency of the Council of
Ministers on 1 January 2002. Its main goals for its term, which runs until 30
June 2002, are set out in a policy document entitled More Europe. Programme
of the Spanish Presidency of the EU .
Ministers and heads of state gathered in the Belgian town of Laeken on
14–15 December 2001 for the European Council which marks the end of the
Belgian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The Presidency subsequently
issued a document containing the conclusions  of the debates.
A recent study carried out by the Department of Organisation and Industrial
Sociology (Institut for Organisation og Arbejdssociologi) at the Copenhagen
Business School (Handelshøjskolen i København) and published in mid-January
2002 shows that the total membership of Danish trade unions remained more or
less unchanged at about 2.15 million over the period 1994 to 2001. During the
same period, the number of potential members, however, increased by about
100,000 persons who joined the total labour force. This means that the total
number of organised employees as a proportion of the potential membership (ie
union density) has fallen from 84.6% in 1994 to 81.7% in 2001, or nearly
three percentage points.
The joint Norwegian-Swedish-Danish airline company Scandinavian Airlines
System (SAS) is seeking – as with many other airlines – to reorganise in
the light of the extensive crisis in aviation since the terrorist attacks on
the USA in September 2001. At the start of the crisis, SAS declared that
2,500 jobs had to go. Since then, the figure has been reduced through
agreements with staff organisations and trade unions. Some 1,700 white-collar
staff have thus accepted having their pay and working hours reduced by just
over 5% in order to save jobs. In addition, they will also refrain from
claiming wage increases in 2002. Voluntary leave schemes and part-time
arrangement are being introduced and the employees have accepted the loss of
a number of fringe benefits. The Danish white-collar employees' union at SAS,
Luftfartsfunktionærerne (LFF), had hoped for a guarantee against dismissals,
but in spite of joint efforts the management has given no such commitment.
On 19 December 2001, the 'red-Green' coalition government passed a decree
which will offer employment permits to domestic workers from Poland,
Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Permits will be issued
with a duration of one to three years and applications will be accepted until
31 December 2002. To qualify as potential employers for such migrant domestic
staff, a household must be taking care of a relative and be receiving
benefits from the statutory long-term care insurance system. The government
hopes that by the time the deadline for applications expires, the decree will
have been replaced by a more comprehensive immigration law (DE0105223F )
which is still pending in the legislative process.
On 13 December 2001, the IG Metall metalworkers' trade union and the Unified
Service Sector Union (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, ver.di) reached
an agreement on future collective bargaining arrangements at IBM Deutschland
GmbH. The two unions agreed to create a joint collective bargaining committee
to negotiate the forthcoming agreements for the 26,000 or so employees at the
German subsidiaries of the US-based information technology (IT)
In late 2001, the social partners in the Belgian large-scale retail sector
were negotiating, for the first time, over a single collective agreement for
the whole sector (which was formerly divided into three bargaining units). On
1 December, with no deal in sight, trade unions called a one-day national
strike. However, conciliation then led to a draft agreement, which seems
likely to satisfy the unions.
In December 2001, management and trade unions at the Belgian
telecommunications operator Belgacom signed an agreement on the
implementation of a new restructuring plan, affecting 3,000-4,000 employees.
The agreement, which provides for a combination of retraining, working time
reductions and voluntary redundancies, has been welcomed for its innovative