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In early 2001, the directors of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), Ireland's
state electricity firm, rejected for the time being the option of
privatisation – a route which had been favoured by the company's chief
executive, Ken O'Hara. The rejection came soon after a letter was sent to the
board by the group of trade unions represented in the company, which
expressed the view that the management team was not up to the rigours of
competition (IE0004210N ). The unions say that this was not intended as a
personal criticism of any individual manager, but rather a reflection of the
need for training and upgrading of the management team.
New mechanisms for the consultation of workers in firms which do not
recognise trade unions, as well as access to the Rights Commissioner's appeal
mechanism, have been introduced into Irish law implementing the EU Directives
on transfers of undertakings (77/187/EEC , amended by 98/59/EC ) and
collective redundancies (now consolidated in 98/59/EC ).
In January 2001, Greece's OTOE bank workers' trade union issued its platform
of demands for forthcoming bargaining over a new collective agreement for the
banking sector. OTOE's demands include pay increases which take into account
future inflation and past losses of purchasing power, and the introduction of
a 35-hour working week.
In January 2001, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) called on
the Minister of Labour and Social Security to intervene to prevent breaches
of labour legislation in the operation of personnel leasing and temporary
work agencies, which are reportedly on the increase. The legal framework for
such leasing of personnel is currently unclear, and GSEE is seeking a series
of regulations to address the problems.
The social partners in Greece have repeatedly expressed the need to
reorganise and modernise the Labour Inspectorate. The existing structure was
limited and unable to meet current requirements for better monitoring,
specialisation, flexibility and rapid action. Legislation adopted in 1998
created a new institutional framework for the operation of the Labour
Inspectorate, and established a new Corps of Labour Inspectors (SEPE). The
new body was officially inaugurated in December 2000.
In January 2001, a sectoral agreement on "an early retirement scheme for the
banking industry" was signed by the AFB employers' association and the
banking federations of the CGT-FO and CFTC trade union confederations. This
five-year agreement will, through a system of new recruitment to compensate
for early retirement, help to mitigate age imbalances in the banking
workforce and address demands from workers. The agreement is based on the
government's CATS early retirement scheme, which was introduced in February
Elections of employee representatives on the joint committees at the French
Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry were held in December 2000 and
January 2001. These elections are an important barometer of the support and
representativeness of the various trade unions. The latest elections were
particularly important since they followed the industrial action in early
2000 over a proposed reform of the Ministry. They produced some changes in
the position of the major unions and also indicated a degree of fragmentation
and dispersal, as well as polarisation between the Ministry's various
February 2001 saw the adoption of new legislation reforming employee savings
schemes in France. This followed a lengthy period of disagreement between the
two chambers of parliament. The main aim of the new law is to increase the
scope and duration of employee savings schemes, by extending them to
employees of small and medium-sized businesses and increasing the "lock-in"
period for employee savings from five to 10 years.
Elections to France's départment-level chambers of agriculture were held on
31 January 2001. The Small Farmers' Confederation (Confédération paysanne)
made significant gains in the electoral divisions for farmers. There were
also considerable gains and losses for trade unions in the employees division
- though it is difficult to draw comparisons with previous elections due to
major changes in the make-up of the electoral base.
In January 2001, pay negotiations in France's civil service came to a halt
when the civil service trade unions rejected the latest proposals from the
minister concerned. The unions called a day of action on 30 January, which
was widely supported in the key parts of the civil service.