Controversy over rise in women's unemployment
22 July 2004
According to the latest data from the Labour Market Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS), there were 202,787 unemployed people on average in June 2004, which corresponds to an overall unemployment rate of 5.9%. This represented a slight increase of 0.9% on the same month in 2003. A notable feature is that the rise in overall unemployment - in contrast to the trend over 2001-3 - results exclusively from an increase in women’s unemployment, whereas men’s unemployment has decreased slightly, as has youth unemployment. This marks a possible turning point in a long-standing and continuous tendency of rising unemployment among the latter groups since 2001. It is important to note that all these figures are calculated according to the Austrian method of counting unemployment, as established by the AMS. The EU method of calculation produces an unemployment rate of 4.2% for June 2004.
Employers launch debate on longer working hours
06 July 2004
A public debate on possible longer working hours has recently been initiated by the new president of the Federation of Austrian Industry (Industriellenvereinigung, IV), Veit Sorger, who was elected in mid-June 2004. The IV is a cross-sector voluntary employers’ organisation representing manufacturing industry, and covers part of the domain of the Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ), of which membership is obligatory for employers. At his inaugural press conference on 16 June, implicitly referring to the broad working time debate that has arisen in Germany (DE0306109F ), the IV president called into question Austria’s working time regime, which is perceived as being rigid and too inflexible by most of the IV members. Mr Sorger stated that, in order to improve the competitiveness of Austria’s businesses, an extension of overall working hours and/or a reduction in the number of public holidays would be inevitable. He called on the government to realise its own programme for the current legislative period, which includes plans for a further flexibilisation of working hours.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/controversy-over-working-time
Social Democrats make gains in Chamber of Labour elections
21 June 2004
The Chambers of Labour (Arbeiterkammern, AK), alongside the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB), represent labour within the Austrian system of social partnership. Unlike ÖGB, membership of which is voluntary, AK is an obligatory interest representation body. Accordingly, all employees covered by the AK’s legally demarcated membership domain, both blue-collar and white-collar, must belong to the AK. This obligation embraces all employees, apprentices, people on maternity/paternity leave and unemployed people (AT0004218F ), with the exception of two distinct groups of excluded employees: executive staff (ie managers equipped with the power to employ people); and employees in most parts of the public sector (except for railway and postal service employees, who do belong to the AK’s membership domain). Present total membership is about 2.6 million. The Chambers also represent the interests of retired employees.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined/chambers-of-labour-under-renewed-discussion
Thematic feature - individual labour/employment disputes and the courts
20 June 2004
In March 2004, the EIRO national centres in 24 European countries were asked, in response to a questionnaire, to give a brief overview of their country's system for dealing with individual labour/employment disputes through the courts, along with data on: the volume of cases; the costs; the timeframe; alternatives to going to court; and any current debate on these issues. The Austrian responses are set out below (along with the questions asked).
Plans for major union merger in danger of failure
07 June 2004
In October 2001, representatives of Austria’s largest blue- and white-collar unions decided to merge their organisations. Hans Sallmutter, the chair of the Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA), and Rudolf Nürnberger, the chair of the blue-collar Metalworking and Textiles Union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Textil, GMT), announced that a single large union with about half a million members would be established in the coming years (AT0110205N ). Subsequently, three other unions decided to join the planned merger - the Union of Chemical Workers (Gewerkschaft der Chemiearbeiter, GdC), the Printing and Paper Union (Gewerkschaft Druck und Papier, GDP), and the Union of Agricultural, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers (Gewerkschaft Agrar-Nahrung-Genuss, ANG). All five unions are affiliated to the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB).  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/largest-blue-and-white-collar-unions-intend-to-merge
Study finds deteriorating working conditions in commerce
01 June 2004
In line with international developments, Austrian commerce, and in particular the retail sector, has over recent years been faced with intensified competition and new competitive management strategies, caused by the growing internationalisation of the market. This has resulted in a considerable movement towards market concentration, accompanied by pressures for restructuring and deregulation of employment. These developments - which have resulted in industrial disputes, notably over (liberalised) working hours, since the mid-1990s (AT0307201N ) - have, according to commentators, had a problematic impact on the sector’s working conditions, especially as regards job security, quality of work, working hours regulations and remuneration.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/government-proposes-amendments-to-shop-opening-hours-act
2003 Annual Review for Austria
12 May 2004
On 24 November 2002, a general elections was held, which had become necessary due to conflicts within the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ). These elections saw the ÖVP emerge as the clear winner. It increased its vote by more than 15 percentage points to 42.3%, thus becoming the largest party in parliament for the first time since 1970 (AT0301204F ). After a three-month period of negotiations with all parties represented in parliament, on 21 February 2003 the ÖVP decided to continue its previous coalition government with the FPÖ, which had lost almost two-thirds of its 2000 vote, receiving only 10.0%.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/2002-annual-review-for-austria
New service regulations agreed for railway employees
09 May 2004
On 30 April 2004, the management of the Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) and representatives of the Union of Railway Employees (Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner, GdE) agreed new 'service regulations' applying to about 47,000 railway employees. This agreement was concluded under a government threat unilaterally to alter the existing public service employment regulations by law, if the parties failed to reach a settlement by the end of April.
Calls for reform of childcare benefit scheme
20 April 2004
In March 2003, the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) presented a study of the effects of Austria’s childcare benefit scheme (Kinderbetreuungsgeld), conducted by Hedwig Lutz of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, WIFO). The study’s findings question the scheme’s effectiveness in terms of women’s chances to participate in the labour market after taking parental leave (AT0304201N ). One year later, at the end of March 2004, AK presented a more differentiated, updated follow-up study on the same issue, drawn up by the same author on behalf of AK ('Wiedereinstieg und Beschäftigung von Frauen mit Kleinkindern'). In general, this updated research, which is based on more reliable empirical data than the 'pioneer' study, corroborates the results of the latter, with slight modifications in detail.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/controversy-over-childcare-benefit
Unemployment insurance coverage to be extended to self-employed
05 April 2004
In mid-March 2004, the Minister of Economy and Labour Affairs, Martin Bartenstein, presented a draft bill on 'labour market reform' (Arbeitsmarktreformgesetz). This includes a proposal which provides for the possibility for all categories of self-employed people to opt for voluntary insurance against the risk of unemployment. According to the draft, from 1 January 2005 all 340,000 or so self-employed people in Austria would be entitled voluntarily to contribute some 6% of their gross income to the unemployment insurance fund, which would (after a minimum one-year period of contributions) grant them eligibility to receive unemployment benefit on losing their jobs.