The Institute for Economics and Social Science (Wirtschafts- und
Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) has recently published its annual
examination of the previous collective bargaining round. It paints a rather
mixed picture of 1996, a year in which collective bargaining was overshadowed
by continuing relatively poor economic performance and a further increase in
unemployment. GDP grew by only 1.4% over the year, while at the end of the
year more than 4 million people were officially registered as unemployed.
Late in 1996, Parliament passed legislation providing for changes in the
Employment Security Act that aroused the anger of the trade unions. Although
most of the new provisions apply from 1 January 1997, the most controversial
modification, in Section 2 of the Act, will not come into force until 1 July.
This will give trade unions and employers more time to adapt to the new rule
in the legislation which deals with the level of central bargaining and
In January 1997, the cement company, Blue Circle (BCC), and two of Britain's
largest trade unions, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and the
General Municipal and Boilermakers Union (GMB), agreed what has been
described as a "ground breaking" deal which gives a guarantee of job
security, in return for pay restraint and more flexible working arrangements.
Both the unions and the Labour Party see the agreement as a model for future
employee relations, which could go some way towards reviving the fortunes of
the British economy.
For the first time since 1960, the Belgian social partners have failed to
reach an intersectoral pay agreement and have instead accepted government
imposition of measures on employment and maximum pay increases. This
development runs counter to all traditions of free collective bargaining and
the autonomy of both sides of industry. It also appears to reinforce the
trend towards sector-level bargaining, away from intersectoral or
central-level bargaining, thereby widening the disparities between strong and
In recent years pressure has mounted on all parties involved to rethink and
revise the traditional policies and practices of Greek industrial relations
as well as to promote social dialogue between employers and employees. As a
result of changing conditions, some believe that a new era in industrial
relations and social dialogue has been inaugurated in Greece.
The majority of Norwegian wage agreements are of two years' duration, and the
current settlements will expire during 1998. However, issues relating to
remuneration will be renegotiated at central level in 1997. Most of the
agreements between LO (the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions or
Landsorganisasjonen i Norge) and NHO (the Confederation of Norwegian Business
and Industry or Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon) in the private sector
expire on 31 March 1997, and bargaining is expected to commence in mid-March.
Agreements in the public sector expire one month later. The social partners
have not yet specified their demands, but all the central parties have held
initial bargaining conferences. In this feature, we describe the economic
climate in Norway prior to the wage negotiations, examine the provisional
demands the social partners have put forward, and comment on these demands in
the light of the existing social pact between the central labour market
parties in Norway, the so-called "Solidarity Alternative"
The issue of wage flexibility as a means of promoting employment growth was
initially put forward by the ex-president of Confindustria (the most
important Italian employers' association), Luigi Abete, as a problem which
had not been adequately dealt with in the 1993 income policy agreement. CISL,
one of the three main trade union confederations, later took up the wage
flexibility issue and proposed flexibility in starting wages (the so-called
"entrance salary") as a means of tackling the extremely serious employment
crisis in some southern regions of Italy.
According to a recent analysis by the Institute for Economics and Social
Science (Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) basic wages
and salaries in western Germany grew on average by about 2.3% in 1996. Thus,
pay increased by about 0.8 percentage points above the inflation rate, which
stood at 1.5% in 1996. Altogether, about 15.1 million employees were covered
by collective agreements signed in 1996. The highest pay increases, at 2.8%,
were in the energy and water industry and in the iron and steel industry. The
lowest increases were in banking (1.5%), post and telecommunications (1.4%)
and public services (1.3%).
On 19 February, the Government presented a bill to Parliament, proposing
modifications in the legislation concerning the granting of workers' claims
in case of their employer's insolvency. There is no doubt that it will be
passed by Parliament. This will then be the second time the legislation has
been modified in order to comply with EU Council Directive 80/987/EEC on this
The immediate catalyst for the current prominence of working time in UK
industrial relations is the failure in November 1996 of the Government's
attempt to have the EU Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of
working time (Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993) annulled by
the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Steps are being taken to implement the
Directive, though the present Conservative Government hopes to get the
Directive "disapplied" if it wins the forthcoming general election. Also
important, however, is the growing debate about the implications for the
well-being of individuals and their families of the fact that UK's hours of
work are long in comparison with other EU member states.
Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) examines both the objective circumstances of European citizens' lives and how they feel about those circumstances and their lives in general. This series consists of outputs from the EQLS 2003, the first edition of the survey.
Eurofound's European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) examines both the objective circumstances of European citizens' lives and how they feel about those circumstances and their lives in general. This series consists of outputs from the EQLS 2007, the second edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2003.
Eurofound's European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) examines both the objective circumstances of European citizens' lives and how they feel about those circumstances and their lives in general. This series consists of outputs from the EQLS 2012, the third edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2003.
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Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the EWCS 2010, the fifth edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 1990.
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