Progress in 1998 tourism industry pay round

In 1998, the Austrian tourism industry is once again involved in a province-by-province bargaining process. Minimum wages for one-third of the industry's employees have risen by 1.8% as a result of 1998's bargaining. In 1997, agreements providing a 2.2% rise were signed for about half the workforce. Half the sector's workers have so far received no increase in either 1997 and 1998.

In the first half of May 1998, collective agreements for wage earners (Arbeiter) in hotels and restaurants were concluded in three provinces and for salary earners (Angestellte) on a national basis. Negotiations for wage earners in tourism are being conducted on a province-by-province basis because, for the second year in succession, national talks failed (AT9802167N).

The provinces to have signed by mid-May were Vienna, the surrounding province of Lower Austria and the adjacent Burgenland. Together these agreements cover 44,000 or slightly less than one third of the 142,000 wage earners in the industry nationally. Minimum wages in Vienna and Lower Austria and minimum salaries nationally rise by 1.8% - against a rate of inflation of about 1.4% - effective from 1 May 1998. In Burgenland, no agreement was concluded in 1997 and, following the results in Vienna, the trade union demanded a compound increase of 4% - 2.2% for 1997 and 1.8% for 1998 - but settled for 2.9%. The reason is the relatively high wage level that has developed in Burgenland due to the system of fixed wages there.

New for Burgenland, but not for the other collective agreements, is the expansion of normal working time to 10 hours per day, if the working week is reduced to four consecutive days. Normal weekly working time can be up to 48 hours but has to average out to 40 hours over a reference period of 13 weeks. The beginning of a reference period has to be agreed with the works council or, if one does not exist, with individual employees in writing (AT9706120N). An innovation in all agreements is that the maximum working day including overtime can be 12 hours, provided that the working week consists of only four consecutive days. On a 12-hour day, the working hours must be worked consecutively, interrupted only by the obligatory breaks. It was agreed in a protocol last year to settle this point this year.

In the other six provinces, among them two that signed collective agreements in 1997, negotiations are underway, but some of them may be deadlocked again in 1998. The problem is that the demands made on each other by the industry's social partners cannot be solved by them. If the Federal Section for Tourism in the Austrian Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) were to offer a wage increase of 0.5% in return for each demand which it is making - which include shorter night rest, longer employment of young people in the evening and the length of vacation entitlements to be dependent on length of service - it would be beyond the Union of Hotel, Restaurant and Personal Services Workers (Gewerkschaft Hotel, Gastgewerbe, Persönlicher Dienst, HGPD) to agree to any of them, because legal changes would be required. These would affect all other industries and, while they might be welcomed by employers, the other trade unions would never consent. However, HGPD is willing, in particular, to talk about holiday entitlements. The trade union's main demand has for many years been the creation of an industry-wide severance and vacation pay fund. After three years' contributions over a period of six years, wage earners in the industry would be entitled to a severance payment that would otherwise accrue only if they were continually employed with the same company. This the WKÖ's federal negotiators are entirely unwilling to concede, even if the trade union offers lower wage demands in return.

On 12 March 1998, about 500 union activists showed up for lunch at the large city-centre restaurant owned by the president of the Salzburg Chamber of the Economy but ordered only a bottle of sparkling mineral water each. Salzburg is considered one of the "hardline" provinces in the dispute.

Meanwhile the tourism industry has been doing better than expected. Turnover in the winter season 1997-8 rose by 2.8% and overnight stays by 1.6%.

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