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In early 2001, negotiations are underway over new sectoral collective
agreements to replace the three-year deals signed in 1998 (SE9806190F ).
On 16 January, the first agreement of the 2001 bargaining round was concluded
in the chemicals industry, two weeks before the existing accord was due to
On 22 December 2000, the minority Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska
Arbetarepartiet, SAP) government decided, after discussions with the parties
with which it cooperates in parliament - the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) and
the Green Party (Miljöpartiet de Gröna) - to appoint a new working time
commission (arbetstidsutredning). The parliamentary commission will examine
the whole current legislative framework on rights to annual leave, parental
leave and study leave, as well as the provisions of the Working Time Act
(arbetstidslagen). This government initiative follows its failure in October
2000 to present a bill on the reform of the Working Time Act (SE0011173F
). The remit for the new commission provides that it should be guided by
the goal of strengthening the influence of individuals on their own working
time, for example in relation to where and when they work. "It is not to be
forgotten that some employees want to decrease their working time while
others working part-time wish to have a full-time job", stated Mona Sahlin,
Minister at the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications,
announcing the creation of the commission.
New Portuguese legislation, adopted in December 2000, will make it easier for
unemployed people aged over 55 to retire and receive an old-age pension. The
new measure comes at a time when the retirement age is starting to come under
debate in a country with one of the EU's highest average retirement ages.
In December 2000, the Portuguese parliament approved a tax reform which will,
among other provisions, lower the tax burden on employees, improve compliance
and combat tax fraud and evasion. The social partners gave the reform a mixed
On 21 December 2000, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled in two appeal cases
concerning employee's right to retain employment with their original employer
in the event of outsourcing or change in ownership. Both cases had previously
been through previous court proceedings at lower levels before going on
appeal to the Supreme Court in 1999. The Supreme Court concluded that there
is no general right for employees to retain employment with an original
employer in the case of a transfer of activity to another employer, although
this general rule is not without exceptions.
In late 2000, the Dutch Institute for Multicultural Development (Forum)
highlighted the relatively low participation rate of people from ethnic
minority groups in the labour market. The organisation has threatened to
institute legal proceedings, in view of the fact that legislation tightened
in 1998 appears to have failed to achieve its objectives.
In December 2000, the Italian government and teachers' trade unions signed an
agreement on the funds to be allocated to pay increases and to the reform of
the schools sector, thus ending a long-running dispute over the
implementation of the sector's current national collective agreement. The
resources allocated should allow a gross average pay increase for teachers of
about ITL 300,000 per month from January 2001.
In December 2000, the social partners in the Italian market research and
opinion polls sector signed a first national collective agreement covering
non-dependent "atypical" workers who perform freelance and similar work for
companies in the sector. The deal is the first result of trade union efforts
to lay down the principles which regulate individual employment relationships
for such workers through collectively agreements. The regulation of this form
of employment is currently under parliamentary discussion.
The publication of the Carers' Leave Bill in December 2000 – which provides
carers with an entitlement to 65 weeks of leave, unpaid by the employer –
is the second part of a package which also includes the Carers' Benefit
scheme, which pays carers IEP 88.50 per week and was introduced in October
2000. The intention to introduce both the benefit (available to all carers,
not just those in employment) and the relevant employment protection
legislation was first announced in December 1999, as part of the government's
budget for 2000. The scheme is relatively unusual for recent Irish labour
legislation in that it does not originate in an EU Directive.