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In a recent report (/Social Europe/ 4/96, published in March/April 1997), the
European Commission assesses the progress towards the achievement of the
goals of the medium-term social action programme covering the period between
1995-7. This social action programme, adopted in April 1995, is seen by the
Commission as marking a breakthrough for new ideas and policies. The basic
concept underlying the programme is that social policy is a productive factor
facilitating change and progress, rather than a burden on the economy or an
obstacle to growth.
In 10 sessions over the course of five months, the Metals, Mining and Energy
Workers trade union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Bergbau-Energie, GMBE) and eight
associations together comprising the metalworking sector within the
Bundessektion Industrie of the Austrian Chamber of the Economy
(Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) have thrashed out a collective
agreement on working time flexibilisation covering 229,000 employees (162,000
waged, 67,000 salaried) in industrial establishments. However, one of the
eight associations - Fachverband der Metallwarenindustrie- has been blocking
ratification of the deal since mid-March.
On 22 April 1997, the management board at Ford Germany and the company works
council (Gesamtbetriebsrat) signed a new works agreement to secure
investment. In the agreement, Ford management promises new investments at the
five German Ford plants at Cologne, Düren, Berlin, Wülfrath and Saarlouis.
Although the exact figures have not been published it is estimated that
investments will total about DEM 10 billion in the next few years.
"Territorial pacts" (patti territoriali) are an interesting and innovative
form of social dialogue that could change the Italian experience of "social
concertation", with important consequences. By developing the idea of these
pacts, the consultative National Council for Economic Affairs and Labour
(CNEL ), which had not previously played an important role in this field,
could assume a key position in social dialogue, particularly in the
preparation of agreements for the economic development of crisis-hit areas in
A separate agreement for white-collar employees in the Luxembourg iron and
steel was concluded in March 1997, despite efforts in negotiations to create
a single agreement for both white- and blue-collar staff.
The principal collective agreement in the Dutch information technology and
office equipment sector, concluded in April 1997 between the employers'
organisation and one of the trade unions, has been criticised by the other
unions and four large software and service companies
/The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
is currently conducting a major research project on Equal opportunities and
collective bargaining in Europe, co-funded by DG V of the European
Commission. The aim is to assist in the complicated task of promoting equal
opportunities for women and men by means of collective bargaining. The
continuing project has at present reached the stage where the issues have
been defined, and national reports drawn up by a network of correspondents,
exploring the context of the issue in each of the 15 EU member states. A
consolidated report on stage one of the project has been prepared by Yota
Kravaritou of the European University Institute. /
Speaking at the Institute of European Affairs in Dublin, Padraig Flynn, the
commissioner for employment, industrial relations and social affairs,
outlined his priorities for the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and
provided the audience with an update of the continuing negotiations leading
up the Amsterdam summit in June (EU9704117F ).
A joint management/trade union Joint Strategic Consultative Group (JSCG) has
been established to tackle the job of negotiating an agreement to help to
transform state-owned Telecom Eireann to meet current and future competitive
challenges. The key issues which the JSCG expects to address before the end
of April 1997 are a five-year, IEP 110 million cost reduction plan, change
and flexibility proposals and the question of an Employee Share Ownership
Plan (ESOP), first proposed by the trade unions.