Pay round off to a good start
Bargaining on wages and salaries in industrial enterprises led to unexpectedly quick results in a number of Austrian industries in October 1997, primarily the metalworking sector, where the agreement on working time flexibility drafted last winter was also finally signed. Only in the paper and pulp industry do differences remain between the negotiating teams.
The 1997 round of collective bargaining over wages and salaries in industrial enterprises in the metalworking sector achieved an early success on 7 October 1997, when employers finally agreed to the working time model thrashed out last winter (AT9704110N). It now takes effect from 1 November 1997, six months later than originally planned.
On 20 October 1997, the metalworking bargaining teams concluded the wage and salary negotiations. Minimum wages are to be raised by 2.7% and actual wages by 2.1%. This compares with 2.6% and 2.0%, respectively, last year, and applies to 162,000 waged and 92,000 salaried employees, about 8.5% of total employment in Austria (AT9709130F).
A degree of flexibility was injected into the collective agreement by means of a so-called "option clause". Until the end of 1997, works agreements can be concluded raising actual wages by only 1.9% but distributing a further 0.5% of the total wage bill in line with efficiency criteria - ie outside the usual seniority considerations. The Metals Mining and Energy Trade Union (Gewerkschaft Metall Bergbau Energie, GMBE) means to target the additional 0.5% primarily at workers with lower incomes, especially younger workers. If a works agreement is not concluded, the agreed 2.1% raise falls due from 1 November. The Association of Metals Industrial Enterprises, part of the Austrian Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ), sees the option clause as a first step in bringing actual wage agreements to the plant level. Generally, it is recognised that the step away from the seniority principle was necessary and may be complemented in future bargaining rounds. There are, however, some doubts as to whether the option clause will actually be implemented.
At the same time, in the chemicals industry minimum salaries were raised by 2.6% and actual salaries by 2.1%, and an option clause applies. In the glass industry minimum salaries were raised by 2.0% and actual salaries by 1.7%, while the option clause here specifies 1.5% plus 0.4%. No option clauses were agreed in: the paper and cardboard processing industry, where minimum salaries are increased by 2.35% and actual ones by 1.8%; in the stone and ceramics industry, where they increased by 2.35% and 1.6% respectively; and in the food industry, where actual salaries below ATS 36,000 a month are being raised by 1.7%, those above by 1.6%, and minimum salaries by 1.8%-2.0%. These agreements cover close to 45,000 employees. Wages in all these industries, as well as wages and salaries in trades and crafts establishments in these industries, will be negotiated later.
No agreement has been reached over salaries in the paper and pulp industry. Staff meetings in the sector's 15 larger industrial enterprises were held on 21 October.