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In 2002, Tele Fonika closed its cable plant in Ożarów, Poland, with the
loss of 900 jobs. resulting in high-profile protests from the workforce. In
2004, however, the company is making a new investment in Ożarów, and hiring
some of workers dismissed previously.
The Labour Code of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Darbo
Kodeksas, DK ) was finally adopted on 4 June 2002, following a decade of
drafting and debate, and came into effect from 1 January 2003. Before the
Labour Code came into force, employment relations were governed by numerous
laws (such as the Laws on the Employment Contract, Wages, Holidays, and
Collective Agreements and Contracts) and secondary legislation. The Code's
implementation materially changed the legal governance of employment
relations. It particularly emphasises the facilitation and development of
social dialogue: a number of issues that had been strictly governed by
legislation (or rather the state) were transferred to the field regulated by
collective bargaining, thus encouraging the social partners to enter into
collective agreements, not only at company level, but also at sectoral,
regional or national levels. Among the most significant innovations was that
the Code not only enshrines for the first time a concept of social
partnership, along with its basic principles, parties, levels, forms and
system, but also explicitly defines the right of employees to information and
consultation as well as, for example, reforming employee representation and
the termination of employment relationships.
GE Healthcare is a County Cork-based subsidiary of a US-owned multinational.
A case seeking trade union representation and improvements in pay and
conditions was recently brought by the Services Industrial Professional &
Technical Trade Union (SIPTU) on behalf of almost 100 employees at GE
Healthcare, under the terms of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001,
as amended by the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004
 (IE0409204F )
In October 2004, six of the eight trade unions represented at French National
Railways (SNCF) signed an agreement designed to prevent industrial disputes
at the state-run company. The agreement came at a time when the free
market-oriented wing of the ruling conservative coalition was preparing to
table legislation requiring minimum service during public transport strikes.
On 9 November 2004, the Finnish Transport Workers' Union (Auto- ja
Kuljetusalan Työntekijäliitto, AKT) began a strike at Connex and Concordia,
two multinational bus companies operating in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
The strike was a protest against increases in 'atypical' employment in these
companies, in particular against the hiring of part-time workers. AKT argued
that the sectoral collective agreement had been violated and wanted to
negotiate on the matter with the Road Transport Employers’ Federation of
(Autoliikenteen Työnantajaliitto, ALT). The latter, however, did not agree
to talks, insisting that agreements had been honoured and that new conditions
would not be negotiated in the middle of the current agreement's term, which
does not end until 2006.
On 22 November 2004, the European Commission issued a report entitled The
situation of Roma in an enlarged European Union . It examines the
conditions faced by Roma, gypsies and travellers in a variety of fields,
including education, employment, housing and healthcare and presents a series
of recommendations to the EU institutions, Member States and non-governmental
organisations on how to strengthen their policies and actions regarding
people belonging to these minorities.
An online consultation exercise on a European Commission Green Paper entitled
Equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged European Union  was
launched in June 2004 (EU0407203N ) The Commission reported  in
November that it had received more than 1,500 contributions, with over
two-thirds coming from individuals and the remainder coming from
organisations or institutions. A vast majority of respondents (88%) said that
the EU should step up its efforts to combat discrimination following
The European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on the provision of
services in the internal market  is continuing to cause controversy. The
Commission issued this proposal in January 2004 with the aim of facilitating
the free movement of services and making it easier for service providers to
establish themselves in different EU Member States. To this end, it proposes
removing national barriers to the free movement of services in the EU.
A round-table conference  entitled 'Social inclusion in an enlarged EU:
new challenges, new opportunities' was held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on
18-19 October 2004. It was jointly organised by the current Dutch Presidency
of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission and examined
progress on achieving the goal set by the EU's Lisbon strategy 
(EU0004241F ) of reducing poverty and social exclusion by 2010. This is
the third such conference to have taken place and the first to be held after
enlargement of the EU to 25 Member States in May 2004.
In November 2004, Spanish trade unions criticised the policy of workforce
reduction and relocation conducted by the Dutch multinational Philips at its
plants in Barcelona. The unions have called for the intervention of the
regional government in order to avoid the closure of three plants, asked the
city council not to change the permitted use of the sites and demanded