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At the end of October 2009, a nationwide protest of farmers took place
against the low purchase prices for milk, which was organised in regions by
the farmers themselves. In at least eight localities across the Czech
Republic, farmers poured hundreds of thousands of litres of milk into fields.
The move was a mark of protest against its low purchase prices, which have
recently dropped below the production cost. The farmers are concerned that
they will have to send a large proportion of their cattle to be slaughtered.
On 6 October 2009, after less than a month of negotiations, the social
partners in Bulgaria’s energy sector signed a new sectoral collective
agreement for a two-year term. The swift adoption of the branch agreement is
due to consensus being reached between employers and trade unions because of
the current economic crisis. They recognised that, on the one hand, it was
not possible to increase wages but, on the other, employees’ interests
needed to be protected. The social partners decided to maintain the wage
parameters agreed in the branch agreement in 2007 and to increase some forms
of workers’ compensation. The main reasons for the crisis in the sector are
the stagnation of the markets, a reduction of customers and a decline in the
possibilities for credit.
Directive 2008/06/EC  amending Directive 97/67/EC with regard to the full
accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services was
adopted on 20 February 2008. It envisages the complete liberalisation of the
postal services market by 31 December 2010 at the latest. However, 11
countries, including Luxembourg, are benefiting from an extension until 31
December 2012. At present, P&T Luxembourg  is continuing to handle
national and international mailing pieces weighing less than 50 grammes.
After the complete liberalisation of the postal market, any operator will be
able to collect, transport, sort and distribute mailing pieces of any weight.
The idea of merging all pieces of public wage legislation into one law dates
back to November 2005, when it was included in a protocol between the
Government of Romania (Guvernul României ) and the National Alliance of
Budgetary Trade Unions ‘SED LEX’ (Alianţa Naţională a Sindicatelor
Bugetarilor ‘SED LEX’, Alianţa SED LEX ) (*RO0504104F* ). The
parties to the protocol agreed that a bill should be drafted by the end of
June 2006. Later that year, the trade unions accused the government of not
having kept its side of the bargain by the due date, and demanded – in
light of Romania’s accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007 –
that the national minimum net salary for public servants should be €350 a
month. The trade unions argued that the salary of similar employees in
central and eastern European countries was €470 a month.
Trade unions in Austria have issued claims that, since the beginning of the
current global economic downturn, companies have increasingly made use of
so-called suspension arrangements (/Aussetzverträge/). Such arrangements
provide for the temporary suspension of employment of individual employees
– in such cases, the employer and the employee agree to terminate the
employment relationship  and to re-establish it after a certain period of
time. In formal terms, these arrangements can only be concluded on a
voluntary basis. However, according to the Union of Salaried Employees,
Graphical Workers and Journalists (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten –
Druck, Journalismus, Papier, GPA-DJP ), employers regularly put pressure
on employees to agree to contracts temporarily suspending employment. It is
argued that companies may prefer suspension arrangements over other
instruments for coping with the consequences of the economic crisis, such as
short-time working arrangements. Temporary suspension arrangements tend to be
more favourable for the companies both legally and in terms of costs.
In the autumn of 2008, Hungary’s Ombudsman, Máté Szabó, launched a
comprehensive review of the country’s Strike Act. The review is seeking to
enhance the enforcement of the basic right to strike , as provided for
under the Constitution, and to develop strike law practices. In more recent
years, strikes and related debates have underlined how the relevant rules
have become obsolete and vague. The results of this review, which were
presented at a conference in October 2009, are summarised here.
In September 2009, the management of RBC Dexia  – a services company for
institutional investors owned by Dexia  and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC )
– announced the relocation of its accounts department to Malaysia. At the
time of the reorganisation, 110 jobs in Luxembourg were under threat. RBC
Dexia had specified that it wanted to achieve the job cuts ‘mainly through
the reduction of outside personnel’. Thus, neither fixed-term nor interim
employment contracts were renewed. Subsequently, negotiations with a view to
establishing a ‘job retention plan’ were initiated.
The draft agreement  on renewing the industry-wide agreement for the
metalworking sector, signed on 15 October 2009, marks an important
development in Italian industrial relations. The settlement covers around 1.6
million workers and has traditionally represented the most important private
sector collective agreement in Italy. It is often used as a model for
agreement renewals in other sectors.
At the end of the summer of 2009, the government announced that it would
undertake the restructuring of the Hungarian public transport system with
immediate effect. According to the plans (*HU1001029I* ), railway lines
that are less frequently used would be closed and substituted by bus
services, provided by Volán  companies. This would result in savings of
some HUF 70 billion (about €258 million as at 26 January 2010) in the
Due to budget constraints, the Romanian government (Guvernul României )
issued, on the last day of 2008, an emergency decree forbidding the right to
accumulated pension earnings and salaries from public funds. The measure
triggered protests by both sectoral and national trade union confederations
. At the same time, the Ombudsman (Avocatul Poporului, AP ) referred
the decree to the Constitutional Court of Romania (Curtea Constituţională a
României, CCR ), claiming that it violated the right to work  and the
right to a pension (*RO0909019I* ).