Settlements concluded in Post Office and courts

Negotiators in Austria were able in May 1998 to defuse disputes at the Post Office and in the courts within a couple of weeks of their coming to a head. The costs of the settlements are minimal.

Several of the disputes which have recently broken out in Austria's public services (AT9805183F) were resolved in May 1998.

On 22 May 1998, the Government agreed to raise gross monthly starting salaries for judges and public prosecutors represented by the Civil Service Trade Union (Gewerkschaft Öffentlicher Dienst, GÖD) from ATS 31,800 to ATS 37,000 from the beginning of 1999, an increase of 16%. The increase in net incomes will be less because of tax progression. Length of service will in turn be rewarded less, though precise details are yet to be settled. There will be some choice for judges and prosecutors between the old and the new system. The measure is expected to cost a total of ATS 50 million in 1999. Because the details are still open, and because it is not entirely certain that the compromise will find favour with the rank and file, a demonstration planned for 29 June was not called off. A vote on the compromise was to be held 3 June.

Some court staff representatives had thought that a 25% increase in net incomes was required. A campaign of staff meetings during working time had started in late January 1998 and continued until May. Among other issues, the most important is that negotiations are now underway to increase the number of judges and to include judges within the general federal service regulations.

Meanwhile, in the Post Office, on 7 May drivers and mechanics at one Vienna depot had held staff meetings for three hours. At issue were complaints about excessive hours and weekend service resulting from staff cuts. The protests were not aimed against the staff cuts themselves, only against their poor management. At the Post Office, overtime attracts only a small premium. The Union of Posts and Telecommunications Employees (Gewerkschaft der Post- und Fernmeldebediensteten) has criticised weekly working times of up to 46 hours.

On Friday 15 May, the postal union unexpectedly decided to throw its full weight behind the dispute. It issued an ultimatum to management to act on the complaints within one week. Otherwise there would first be staff meetings as part of a "pins and needles" campaign followed by a full-scale strike. However, a meeting on 25 May led to the resolution of the dispute. It was agreed to implement the staff-cutting early retirement scheme in tandem with investments originally planned for a later date. This will postpone some of the staff reductions until later in 1998 or 1999. Details on the regional distribution of reductions and investments remain to be sorted out but are not expected to pose problems. All industrial action was called off.

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