28 October 2003
In the long run, the competitiveness of a national economy – like that of Austria – depends not only on company-related factors such as innovativeness, quality of products and marketing, but also on 'macro' criteria such as qualification of the workforce, industrial relations and taxation. In the short run, however, currency rate variations in combination with changes in labour costs and productivity are the most decisive factors for competitiveness, in particular as regards companies in the sectors exposed to international competition. Since Austria joined the third stage of EU Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999, currency rate variations have been relevant only for its trading relations with partners from outside the euro-zone. In contrast, the other main competitiveness criteria - ie labour costs and productivity- have gained in importance.
Thematic feature - works councils and other workplace employee representation and participation structures
21 October 2003
The issue of works councils and similar workplace employee representation and participation structures is topical at present, with the EU Member States required to implement the recent Directive (2002/14/EC)  establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community (EU0204207F ) by March 2005 (though countries which currently have no 'general, permanent and statutory' system of information and consultation or employee representation may phase in the Directive's application to smaller firms up until 2008). The Directive applies to undertakings with at least 50 employees or establishments with at least 20 employees (the choice is left to the Member States). It provides employees with the following rights to information and consultation:  http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=EN&numdoc=32002L0014&model=guichett  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined/final-approval-given-to-consultation-directive
07 October 2003
In August 2003, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) announced that the government is willing to introduce a right to part-time work for parents with children of pre-school age. By introducing such a part-time scheme, the government's stated aim is to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family obligations, in particular for mothers of small children. Under the proposal, all parents with children of pre-school age (ie younger than seven years) would be entitled to switch form full-time to part-time employment, if they work for companies employing a certain minimum number of workers. Interestingly, by launching this initiative, the ÖVP has taken up a long-term demand of the trade unions and the opposition Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ), which had also been raised in a 1997 'women’s referendum initiative' (Frauenvolksbegehren), signed by about 645,000 people.
22 September 2003
After a period of a 10 years without any serious industrial action, Austrian Airlines (AUA), Austria’s national air carrier, was hit by a pilots' strike of several hours over 21 and 22 August 2003. As a consequence, a few scheduled flights had to be cancelled at short notice on these days. The industrial action resulted from a long-running conflict between AUA management and flight staff over ongoing restructuring of the company, including cuts in the workforce and the planned introduction of a new, less favourable payment scheme. In May 2003, some 51 of AUA’s 480 pilots were given notice of termination of contract, although some of them were subsequently rehired under less favourable part-time employment conditions. The management’s plan is to reduce the company’s air-traffic costs by 35% over the period up to 2008, in order to maintain its competitiveness. From the management’s point of view, this requires significant reductions in pay, in particular for newly employed pilots, as well as a new working time scheme for all flight staff in order to shorten their stop-overs at destinations (in particular in the case of long-distance destinations). Moreover, management aims to replace the present scheme whereby pilots receive an automatic annual pay increase of 2.5% with a less costly biannual scheme. The flight staff's representatives have, however, strongly opposed such cost-reduction measures by arguing that merely reducing pay does not represent sustainable restructuring.
10 September 2003
The EU Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (Directive 2000/78/EC ) was adopted in November 2000 (EU0102295F ). The Directive seeks to lay down a general framework for combating discrimination, as regards employment and occupation, on the grounds of: religion or belief; disability; age; and sexual orientation. It is to be implemented by the EU Member States by 2 December 2003 (with a possible later deadline for the provisions on age and disability discrimination, if Member States see this as necessary).  http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=en&numdoc=32000L0078&model=guichett  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined-social-policies/new-framework-equal-treatment-directive-examined
07 September 2003
On 22 July 2003, the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) and the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) jointly presented a study on the working and living conditions of 'atypical' workers in Austria. The study (Atypisch beschäftigt - typisch für die Zukunft der Arbeit ) evaluates interviews conducted in 2002 with 528 people who made use of special advisory services for 'atypical' workers offered by both ÖGB and AK. More precisely, the researchers’ focus group were self-employed people employed under either a 'free service contract' (freier Dienstvertrag) or a 'contract for work' (Werkvertrag) (TN0205101S ). According to Austrian labour law, both groups are classified as self-employed in the narrow sense, although they do not employ other people and often work for only one client. Actually, their working situation resembles to a great extent that of (dependent) employees. People working on a 'contract for work' basis (also referred to as the 'new self-employed', or neue Selbständige) are obliged to fulfil a certain, well-defined task, regardless of whether they do this themselves or subcontract to other people. For their part, 'free service contract' workers provide an (often fixed-term) ongoing service. Formally, they are not subject to the instructions of the client and are free to schedule their own working time. Working materials, in general, have to be made available to these workers by the client.  http://www.oegb.at/servlet/BlobServer?blobcol=urldokument&blobheader=application/pdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=Dokument&blobwhere=1060188977969  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/erm/comparative-information/economically-dependent-workers-employment-law-and-industrial-relations
21 August 2003
Since the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) took office for the first time in February 2000 (it started a second term in February 2003), it has launched several initiatives to restructure the state-owned Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB). The government’s aim has been to reduce the financial burden on the state arising from its legal obligation to compensate for ÖBB’s deficits. However, so far the two governing parties have not managed to reach a joint agreement on how to reorganise this public company. Recent ÖVP plans (presented in January 2003) to transform ÖBB into a holding company, heading several independently-operating enterprises specialising in sales, infrastructure, financing, personnel management etc, were strongly opposed by the Union of Railway Employees (Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner, GdE) (AT0302201N ). The union argues that splitting up ÖBB would pave the way for the privatisation and sell-off of the company’s divisions one by one. With GdE threatening industrial action in the event of ÖBB being dismantled (AT0211201N ), restructuring measures such as those planned by ÖVP and – in principle – supported by the management have hitherto been blocked.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/railway-employees-threaten-strike-over-restructuring  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/dispute-over-railway-restructuring
03 August 2003
In Austria, 'minimally employed workers' (geringfügig Beschäftigter) are defined as employees whose income per year does not exceed a fixed amount (calculated as a monthly average) laid down by law and upgraded annually. For 2003, this monthly pay limit amounts to EUR 309.38. Nearly all minimally employed workers are part-time workers.
22 July 2003
The Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) enjoys a de facto monopoly of trade union representation, and Austrian trade unionism is thus characterised by a notably high degree of unity and coherence. ÖGB is currently divided into 13 member unions which together cover all branches of the economy. Their membership domains are, in general, complementary, though not in the strict sense that only one union always covers any given sector or company. In the private sector, six blue-collar workers' unions and one white-collar union coexist. Furthermore, there are two unions which represent both blue- and white-collar workers - in the arts, media, sports and liberal professions and in the printing, journalism and paper industry respectively. The pattern of union representation in the public sector mirrors the structure of the employing public authorities. Accordingly, there are separate unions for central and regional government and for local government. Separate unions also exist for former public enterprises - ie postal services and telecommunications companies and the Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) - which are undergoing a transition period due to liberalisation and privatisation.
21 July 2003
EU Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services  seeks to avoid 'social dumping' by ensuring that a minimum set of rights is guaranteed for workers posted by their employer to work in another country. The basic principle is that the working conditions and pay in effect in a Member State should be applicable both to workers from that State, and those from other EU countries posted to work there. The Directive covers undertakings established in a Member State, which, in the framework of the transnational provision of services, post workers to the territory of another Member State.  http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=EN&numdoc=31996L0071&model=guichett