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In a previous EIRO review of the industrial relations consequences of the new
Labour Government (UK9704125F ) it was suggested that it was unlikely that
the Government would produce an all-embracing employment bill in its first
term of office, and this has proved correct. However, the social partners
were still relatively pleased with announcements made on measures to tackle
unemployment and low pay.
The negotiating teams representing the Union of Industrial and Employers'
Confederations of Europe (UNICE), the European Trade Union Confederation
(ETUC) and the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and
of Enterprises of General Economic Interest (CEEP) reached a draft framework
agreement on part-time work in the evening of 14 May 1997.
On 25 April 1997, the Saxon metalworking employers' association
(Arbeitgeberverband der Sächsischen Metall- und Elektroindustrie, VSME) and
the metalworkers' trade union, IG Metall, signed new collective agreements
for the 87,000 employees in the Saxon metal industry. The agreements include
a new agreement on wages and salaries, new framework agreements for white-
and blue-collar workers, and a new agreement to secure employment
(Beschäftigungssicherungstarifvertrag). The agreements mainly follow the
pattern of the agreements which have already been agreed in other regions of
eastern Germany, and conclude the 1997 collective bargaining round in east
In elections held in April 1997, a joint list of socialist and communist
trade unionists narrowly won control of Portugal's South and Islands Banking
Union (Sindicato dos Bancários do Sul e Ilhas, SBSI), which will continue to
be affiliated to the General Workers' Union (União Geral de Trabalhadores,
In what legal experts in Ireland have highlighted as a landmark case on the
issue of indirect sex discrimination, Ireland's Supreme Court has asserted
the primacy of EU law over domestic law. Mary Honan, a legal expert with the
Employment Equality Agency said that the decision also established the
correct legal framework for establishing unlawful indirect discrimination.
Part-time workers have traditionally not been allowed into the same
occupational pension schemes as full-time workers, but because there are far
more women than men among part-timers the practice was challenged on the
grounds of sex discrimination through the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In
1994, the ECJ ruled in a set of linked cases that the practice did amount to
sex discrimination. The judgment was not welcomed by the then Conservative
Government, so the Trades Union Congress (TUC) advised qualifying individuals
that they should register their cases with industrial tribunals. After a
number of test cases in the UK tribunals, it was ruled that part-timers who
had been denied access to occupational pension schemes could not claim
backdated pension rights any further back that two years prior to the ECJ's
ruling - that is, 1992. After appeals were turned down, the cases are still
waiting to be heard by the House of Lords.
On 29 April 1997, the management and works council at Mohn GmbH, a subsidiary
of one of Germany's biggest media corporations, Bertelsmann, signed a works
agreement - known as the "Pact for partnership 1997" - for the 1,700 or so
employees at the Mohn printing works in Gütersloh.
An agreement on resolving labour disputes out of court was signed in January
1996 by Spain's largest unions (UGT and CC.OO) and employers' associations
(CEOE and CEPYME), covering the period until 31 December 2000. The agreement
built on the experience in mediation and arbitration at a regional level that
had grown on the basis of joint quasi-judicial institutions formed in the
1990s. We review the complex system which now applies in this area.
The first of the two recently-announced mergers, which is to take effect from
1 July 1997, is between the National and Provincial Building Society Staff
Association (NAPSA) and the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union (BIFU). The
National and Provincial Building Society was recently taken over by the Abbey
National, but NAPSA members voted to become part of BIFU rather than the
Abbey National's own staff association. Despite the strong support for BIFU
from NAPSA members, the company has refused to recognise the union. BIFU said
that "in the merger and conversion mania which is sweeping this country there
is little regard for the impact on staff. They are the casualties - that's
why it is important for unions to work together". BIFU, which has 115,000
members, hope that this will be the first of many mergers which will ensure
it a stronger role in the financial sector.