Intransigence in tourism

The social partners have shown an unusual degree of intransigence over the pay issue dominating April's negotiations for a new collective agreement in the tourism industry. Due on 1 May 1997, it is now unclear when a new agreement will be ready.

Currently the minimum wage in the tourism sector is ATS 54 net per hour. The Hotel, Restaurant, Personal Services Workers (Gewerkschaft Hotel, Gastgewerbe, Persönlicher Dienst,HGPD) is seeking an increase of the minimum gross monthly full-time wage from ATS 11,440 to ATS 12,000 (payable 14 times per year). This is a nominal increase of 4.9%. With current inflation projections running at 1.9%, a real pay increase of 3.0% would result. The minimum net monthly income would be increased by ATS 378.40 from ATS 9,358 to ATS 9,736.40, a nominal increase of 4.0%. On the basis of 173 hours per month, the net hourly rate would increase by ATS 2.18 from the current ATS 54.00.

The Federal Section Tourism and Leisure Industry (Bundessektion Tourismus und Freizeitwirtschaft) of the Austrian Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) rejected the HGPD's demand, insisting instead on a zero wage increase. In addition, the employers proposed a number of other cost-cutting measures that would have an impact on incomes.

The negotiations began on 7 April, and were suspended indefinitely the next day. The HGPD was essentially unwilling to debate any other issues before the wage increase had been agreed, and the tourism section was unwilling to debate any wage increase unless other issues affecting costs had been settled. A new or revised collective agreement is now very unlikely to come into effect on 1 May, as planned originally, and the old one will remain in force.

Meanwhile the HGPD has begun to mobilise its members. On 10 April, an information campaign was initiated within the industry, primarily among the HGPD's 52,000 members (of whom 37,000 are women). This consisted of fliers and other printed material, and of 200 staff meetings in establishments, held on 11 April. On 19 April, 80 works council chairs met at the trade union's headquarters and founded the "Workpeace"-Österreich-Aktionskomitee(Workpeace Austria action committee) which aims at organising labour activities in a number of establishments in the hope of prompting the employers to become more accommodating to the trade union's wage demand. No strike threat has yet been issued. The employers have proclaimed a wait-and-see strategy.

According to the trade union, a number of companies have already settled for the higher minimum wage, among them, for instance, the McDonald's fast-food chain.

The tourism industry has about 70,000 establishments. Turnover recently stabilised at about ATS 170 billion. On average, employment is about 142,000 but reaches about 160,000 at the season's peak in mid-summer. The Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) expects turnover in the 1997 summer season to be about 2% below 1996, while for summer 1998 no change in turnover is expected, and from 1999 growth rates of 2% to 3% are thought to be possible. The winter season has been holding up better and is also expected to grow moderately.

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