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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) held its fourth interministerial meeting
in Doha in November 2001, and the Italian social partners took the
opportunity to express their views on the WTO's role. According to the
Confindustria employers' confederation, the role of the WTO as a body
regulating world trade should be strengthened. The Italian trade union
confederations are highly critical of the fact that the WTO does not concern
itself with social matters.
The European social dialogue process has come a long way since the launch of
the so-called 'Val Duchesse' process by the then European Commission
president, Jacques Delors, in 1985. The social dialogue process at
intersectoral level (EU0001224F ) has produced a wealth of joint texts,
including three agreements which have been given legal force by a Council
Directive - on parental leave  in 1995, part-time work  in 1997
(EU9706131F ) and fixed-term work  in 1999 (EU9901147F ). The most
recent attempt by the central social partners to conclude an agreement, on
the issue of temporary agency work, failed in May 2001 (EU0106215N ).
However, the process is still very much alive, as witnessed by the current
negotiations over a voluntary agreement on the subject of teleworking
(EU0111102N ), in addition to a range of negotiations on other subjects
such as lifelong learning, which will in all probability result in joint
texts or recommendations rather than framework agreements.
In November 2001, two Greek banks - the National Bank of Greece and Alpha
Bank - announced their decision to merge. The two banks have given a
commitment that no staff will be dismissed due to the merger. Trade unions
have called for the protection of employment and workers' labour rights in
the merger process.
In November 2001, management and trade unions at the Spanish motor
manufacturer SEAT concluded an agreement aimed at renewing the company's
workforce through pre-retirement for workers over the age of 60 and the
recruitment of young workers. The measures will potentially affect 7,000
On 28 November 2001, an agreement was reached between the board of the ailing
Norwegian engineering and construction group Kværner and its largest
shareholder, Aker Maritime, on a financial solution to save the company
(NO0110106N ). Following intense negotiations, the board agreed to a
controversial proposal put forward by Aker's majority owner, the Norwegian
billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke, which stipulates that Kværner and Aker will
merge, while fresh and desperately-needed capital will be made available via
share issues. The proposed merger is to occur in March 2002, although it
still requires approval by a second shareholders' meeting to be held on 19
December, as well as by the Norwegian authorities and the European
In November 2001, following various protest actions by workers, a new
collective agreement was concluded for Luxembourg's social and care sector.
The deal provides for backdated pay rises of approximately 7% for the
sector's 5,000 employees, aligning their pay rates with those of state
The healthy financial state of Luxembourg's sickness insurance scheme meant
that the November 2001 general meeting of the Union of Sickness Funds was
able to lower contributions, increase the reimbursement rate for medical
treatment and reduce patients' contributions to hospital expenses.
In October 2001, France's civil service minister and five trade unions signed
a protocol agreement on the employment of people with disabilities in the
central government civil service, with the aim of reaching a 6% quota set by
1987 legislation on the issue.