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On 29 October 2001, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the
Trades Union Congress (TUC) published a joint assessment of the reasons
behind the 'productivity gap' between the UK and its major competitors. The
report, The UK productivity challenge  is the result of a programme of
work drawn up in response to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's request in
October 2000 that the two organisations jointly address a range of issues in
an effort to boost the UK's productivity (UK0011197N ).
On 23 October 2001, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a series of
amendments to the Council of Ministers' common position on the draft EU
Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting
employees in the European Community , intended to strengthen its
requirements (EU0110206F ). The move received a mixed reaction in the UK.
Trade unions welcomed the proposed amendments but employers and the UK
government expressed concern at their implications.
On 19 October 2001, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt announced
that shareholders are to be given the right to an annual vote on director's
pay. The minister said that the move was designed to improve accountability
and strengthen links between pay and performance in the boardroom.
From 9-11 October 2001, some 200 drivers of passenger trains run by the
Swedish Railway System (Statens Järnvägar, SJ) went on strike for 48 hours.
A few hours after the actions stopped, 150 drivers of goods trains run by the
Green Cargo rail freight company took similar strike action, from 11-14
October. About 50,000 train passengers were affected by the first strike, the
costs of which are estimated at SEK 5 million. About 30% of railway goods
traffic was affected by the second strike, which cost about SEK 9 million.
On 13 September 2001, some 100 employees from private radio stations,
internet companies, and the film industry met in Frankfurt to share their
experience of a trade union project called connexx.av , sponsored by the
recently established Unified Service Sector Union (Vereinigte
Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft. Connexx is the first attempt by a German trade
union to offer a wide range of membership services to employees who are not
yet union members. 'This is exactly how a union should be,' proclaimed Frank
Bsirske, president of ver.di, when he addressed the participants at the
In October 2001, the Belgian government announced a bill designed to restrict
the unilateral intervention of civil courts in industrial disputes. Welcomed
by the trade unions, the bill has prompted vehement criticism from the
employers, and considerable hesitation in the VLD, the party in the coalition
government to which Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt belongs. The VLD president
has questioned the recourse to the right to strike in public services,
thereby incurring the wrath of the trade union movement.
On 8 October 2001, officials of the Union of Salaried Employees 
(Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA) and the blue-collar Metalworking
and Textiles Union  (Gewerkschaft Metall-Textil, GMT) met to decide on a
merger of their organisations. They announced that they intended to establish
a single large union that covers a total of 503,306 members, which is more
than one-third of the total membership of the Austrian Trade Union Federation
(Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB).
In September 2001, the National Social Insurance Board
(Riksförsäkringsverket, RFV) published a report (Arbetsgivares attityder
till äldre yrkesverksamma, 2001:9 ). It presented a survey carried out in
2000 among 750 Swedish employers. The employers were interviewed about their
attitudes to older workers, especially those aged over 55 years. The survey
also sought to discover whether employers' attitudes differ according to
factors such as sector, age and gender structure of the workforce, size of
business and geographical location.
In September 2001, Nicole Notat announced officially that she will not be
running again for the position of general secretary of France's CFDT trade
union confederation at its next congress in May 2002. François Chérèque is
to succeed her.
An agreement on introducing the 35-hour week in the French insurance sector
was signed by the FFSA employers' association and CFDT trade union in July
2001. The organisations which did not sign had until 21 September to do so.
However, they did not sign. The GEMA employers' association, which includes
most mutual insurance groups, refused to sign due to the agreement's
provisions on Saturday working, while the other four unions threatened to
take the matter to court.