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Since the early nineties Hungary has built a plethora of social dialogue
institutions addressing labour market policy issues. At the national level
the agenda of the major tripartite forum, National Interest Reconciliation
Council (Országos Érdekegyeztető Tanács, OÉT) and those of its
predecessors have regularly included the government’s employment policy.
Furthermore, OÉT has a specialised permanent body named Labour Market
Committee (Munkaerőpiaci Bizottság) for expert consultations and
preparatory talks on labour market policy issues to be negotiated at plenary
sessions. Also at national level, the social partners have a distinguished
'co-management' position in the Steering Committee of the Labour Market Fund
(Munkaerőpiaci Alap Irányítótestülete), which makes the major decisions
on the utilisation of the Labour Market Fund funded from the compulsory
contribution of employers and employees, and they have a similar role in the
National Employment Foundation (Országos Foglalkoztatási Közalapítvány,
OFA ), a channel for public financing of various employment policy
projects. At the county level, the tripartite County Labour Councils (Megyei
Munkügyi Tanácsok) have a say in the work and expenditures of the Public
Employment Service (Állami Foglalkoztatási Szolgálat, ÁFSZ ).
In October 2004, the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) organised a
well-supported general strike in the Greek public sector. The trade unions
are demanding pay rises and improvements in areas such as family and
maternity allowances, conditions for workers in unhealthy and arduous jobs,
and staff promotions.
Finland’s industrial sector has been hit by collective redundancies in
recent years. Major job cuts started in late 2002, following eight
consecutive years of growth in industrial employment. In the two years up
until autumn 2004, the number of industrial jobs declined from 500,000 to
460,000 (a fall of 8%). This loss of 40,000 jobs represents the most
widespread collective redundancies in the country since the major recession
of the early 1990s. All three of the most important industries have been
affected. The metalworking and electronics industries began shedding workers
first and since autumn 2003 the wood processing industry has followed suit.
In the third quarter of 2004 the pace of redundancies slowed, but industrial
employment continues to decline. Positive growth figures are expected some
time in 2005. The long-term trend, nevertheless, is towards even more
decline; the Ministry of Labour estimates that, compared with the current
level, another 40,000 industrial jobs will be lost by 2030. However, part of
the decrease in industrial employment can be explained by the increasingly
prevalent practice of outsourcing, whereby industrial jobs come to appear as
service sector jobs in statistics.
The European Commission submitted a consultation paper  to the EU-level
social partners on 12 November 2004 on the issue of work-related
musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). It notes that the incidence of work-related
MSDs such as back pain and repetitive strain injury is increasing among
workers in the European Union, stating that these ailments 'are the biggest
health and safety problem facing European workers today'. The Commission
cites studies indicating that over 40 million workers are affected by these
types of ailments, accounting for between 40% and 50% of all work-related ill
health. This in turn is said to be eroding Europe’s competitiveness and
leading to estimated loses of 0.5% to 2% of GNP each year.
On 3 November 2004, the German Metalworkers Union (Industriegewerkschaft
Metall, IG Metall) and representatives of Volkswagen AG (VW) signed a new
package of agreements on pay and job security. This compromise, which
followed six rounds of negotiations and a number of warning strikes involving
about 100,000 Volkswagen employees, ended the 2004 bargaining round at
Germany's largest car manufacturer. It is estimated that the deal, which
includes a pay freeze in exchange for a company promise to safeguard
employment, will save the company EUR 1 billion a year in labour costs.
On 18 October 2004, the Institute for Employment Research (Institut für
Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, IAB ) presented the findings  of a
study on the effects of dismissal protection regulations. The study finds no
significant relationship between the stringency of dismissal protection
legislation and employee turnover levels. These empirical results are seen as
being inconsistent with the economic theory that predicts a detrimental
effect of dismissal protection legislation, which raises the level of
adjustment costs to firms, on hiring and 'separation' rates.
This report focuses on the internal workings of EWCs in five EU Member States: France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK. It compares and contrasts the widely divergent practices resulting from different company practices, cultural backgrounds and industrial relations policies. It looks at the relationships between management and employee representatives, and also between players both inside and outside the company.
On 12 October 2004, the long-awaited interim report  of the Pensions
Commission was published. The Commission, set up following the government’s
green paper on pensions in December 2002, will not produce its final report
until autumn 2005, but publication of the interim report has stimulated a
vigorous debate on the subject of pensions.
Following a ballot in which members of the Public and Commercial Services
Union (PCS) voted nearly two to one in favour of a one-day strike, around
200,000 civil servants took industrial action and other forms of protest on 5
November 2004 as part of a wider campaign against government policies. The
immediate cause of the strike arose from the government’s public
expenditure review for the years 2006 to 2008, published in July 2004
(UK0407105F ). Alongside a commitment to large increases in expenditure on
health and education services, the review outlined ambitious targets for
efficiency improvements, so that savings in 'back-office functions' could be
spent on 'front-line services'. These plans envisaged a reduction in the
number of civil service posts of around 80,000, and the relocation of 20,000
other posts out of London and the South East by 2010.