2002 Annual Review for Austria
23 March 2003
In September 2002, after conflicts within the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) - which had come to office in February 2000 (AT0002212F ) - the ÖVP leadership decided to resign from the coalition. The main reason for the ÖVP’s resignation was internal disagreements within the FPÖ, with important representatives of the party, including its former chair, Jörg Haider, opposing measures perceived as unpopular. Opinion polls had indicated a major fall in popularity for the FPÖ. For the ÖVP, a continuation of the coalition government seemed impossible because several FPÖ ministers had resigned from office.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined-labour-market/new-government-presents-policy
Youth employment programme unsuccessful
12 March 2003
Austria has a 'dual system' of vocational training, providing both for training in special schools and in-company training for apprentices. For a long time, the system worked well, resulting in a relatively low youth unemployment rate, not least because companies could take on apprentices at a low cost, given their relatively low pay. In recent years, however, an acute shortage of apprenticeship places has emerged, due to intensified company 'rationalisation' measures, including significant cuts in personnel.
Controversy over organised 'social fraud' in construction industry
04 March 2003
In early 2003, one year after revelations about illegal employment practices at several Austrian road haulage companies (AT0202203F ), the mass media and the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) have made new allegations about other forms of illegal employment relationships in other sectors. In particular, some employers in the construction industry are accused of founding and registering 'pseudo-companies' for the sole purpose of exploiting employees and defrauding the tax authorities. Whereas the main problem related to illegal employment in Austria has hitherto been wrongly declared or undeclared employment (usually of foreign workers) - as in hotels and catering as well as road haulage - new illicit employment practices by an apparently increasing number of construction companies are now gaining in importance.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined/scandal-over-illegal-employment-of-east-european-lorry-drivers
Railway employees threaten strike over restructuring
10 February 2003
The general elections held on 24 November 2002 saw substantial gains for the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) - the larger party in the previous coalition government - which won more than 42% of the vote. The ÖVP Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, has since carried out exploratory talks with all other parliamentary parties in order to build a new coalition government, which have not yet reached an outcome. At the same time, the ÖVP has developed a programme which should act as guidelines for the future government.
Pensions reform report provokes controversy
03 February 2003
By international and European standards, the Austrian public pensions insurance system, which protects insured people and their surviving spouses and children against the risks of old age, invalidity and death, is widely deemed to be stable and efficient. It is based on a 'pay as you go' mechanism (Umlageverfahren) which means that the cash benefits payable to retired, disabled and widowed people are met from the taxes and contributions paid by the active working population. This 'inter-generational agreement' based on solidarity between younger with the older people has proved efficient in terms of maintaining living standards for older people and still represents more than 90% of overall pension provision in Austria. Accordingly, the share of occupational pension schemes (the 'second pillar') and of individual private life and pension insurance schemes (the 'third pillar') is still relatively low.
Industrial action threatened at Austrian Airlines
19 January 2003
On 29 December 2002, the management of Austrian Airlines (AUA), Austria' national air carrier, gave notice of termination from the end of the year of a works agreement (signed by management and the company works council) on job demarcation. This agreement stipulates that at least 43% of all services performed by the AUA group, including two subsidiaries, must be performed by AUA staff. This rule was agreed in 1997, when AUA acquired both the regional carrier Tyrolean Airways and the Lauda Air charter flight operator, in order to protect the significantly better paid AUA personnel from possible competition with staff at these two lower-wage subsidiaries. In contrast to the standard pattern of sectoral bargaining in Austria, single-employer agreements are concluded for airlines. Hence, pay levels within this sector vary widely (AT9906150F ).  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined-working-conditions/austria-faces-summer-of-transport-disputes
Largest union restructures and adopts new political strategy
17 December 2002
In June 2000, the Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA) - the largest affiliate of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB), with almost 285,000 members among private sector white-collar workers - launched a thoroughgoing organisational reform (AT0008277F ). This internal restructuring process was prompted by declining unionisation rates and new labour market developments, such as increasing flexibilisation and deregulation of employment relations. In the course of this restructuring process, GPA's former sectoral sections have been replaced by 'economic branches' and its former regional (Länder) organisations by smaller sub-units. Furthermore, the representation of new employee groups – such as those involved in various forms of 'atypical' work or 'involuntary' self-employment – has been addressed by corresponding 'interest groupings' and 'issue platforms' within GPA.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined/white-collar-workers-union-launches-restructuring
Large retailers seek extension of shop opening hours
03 December 2002
At a press conference held on 13 November 2002, the association of Austrian large retailers and chain stores (Handelsverband, HV), a lobbying organisation which does not engage in collective bargaining, called for an extension of shop opening hours from Monday to Saturday, from the current legal maximum of 66 hours per week to 78 hours. Arguing that all candidate countries for European Union membership have far more liberal shop opening legislation than Austria, HV also proposes allowing shops to open on Sunday. Otherwise, there will be a substantial shift of Austrian purchasing to the new EU Member States, claims HV, which in particular represents large clothing and food retailers. HV's call came only a few days before a general election, and was addressed to the future government.
Implementation of new severance pay system proves difficult
19 November 2002
On 1 July 2002, a new severance pay (Abfertigung) system replaced the old scheme, which excluded the majority of employees from entitlement to severance pay for reasons which were regarded as questionable. Employees with less than three years' continuous service with the same employer were excluded from any eligibility for severance pay, as were those whose employment relationship was terminated through voluntary resignation or justified summary dismissal by their employer (AT0106220N ).  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/reform-of-severance-pay-under-discussion
Dispute over railway restructuring
03 November 2002
On 11 October 2002, engine drivers at Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) launched a work-to-rule, refusing to work overtime without previous notice. As a consequence, between 80 and 100 train services per day were cancelled in the eastern regions of Austria. The protest action was launched in response to ÖBB management’s announcement that the coming liberalisation of the EU railway market will require thoroughgoing restructuring and a reduction in personnel of 7,000 workers within five years. In the light of these plans, and given that ÖBB's 4,300 engine drivers alone work some 1 million hours of overtime per year, the Union of Railway Employees (Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner, GdE) decided that this group should refuse any overtime work. Referring to several recent accidents resulting from the supposed fatigue of train drivers, the union demanded an increase in staffing instead of the planned reductions, on the grounds of passengers’ safety.