Unions make positive assessment of transnational coordination of bargaining policy

In September 1999, Belgian, Dutch, German and Luxembourg trade unions met in the German city of Haltern in order to evaluate their recent collective bargaining rounds. With average annual wage increase ranging from 2.6% to 3.1% in 1999, all the countries involved conformed to the bargaining guidelines set out in the unions' "Doorn declaration" in 1998.

On 10-11 September 1999, in the German city of Haltern, more than 60 leading representatives of trade unions from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands held their third joint annual meeting. They evaluated the 1999 collective bargaining rounds in the countries involved and discussed future trade union bargaining strategies.

A year previously, the unions involved had adopted a joint declaration which states a strong need for close cross-border coordination of collective bargaining within the EU Economic and Monetary Union (DE9810278F). This so-called "Doorn declaration" (named after the Dutch town of Doorn) represents the first time that unions from different countries have determined a set of joint bargaining guidelines. In order to prevent possible downward competition on wages and working conditions, the unions agreed that national collective bargaining should seek outcomes at least equivalent to the sum total of the increase in prices and the increase in national labour productivity. The unions established a joint working group to organise a permanent exchange of information on relevant data and to draw up comparative analyses on certain bargaining issues in the countries concerned. In addition, there is an annual meeting of top-level union representatives in order to evaluate recent bargaining results with respect to the joint bargaining guidelines.

Following the annual meeting in September 1999, the unions declared that their transnational cooperation on bargaining policy had already shown positive effects. In 1999, agreed wage increases have ranged between 2.6% and 3.1% on national average, which means that all countries involved have fulfilled the formula in the "Doorn declaration". Therefore, the unions believed that they had been able to prevent downward competition and to increase the purchasing power of the employees.

Another important topic at the Haltern meeting was a discussion on innovative collective agreements which aim to safeguard or create employment. Furthermore, all unions agreed that a successful coordination of bargaining policy makes an important contribution to the "European employment pact" agreed at the June 1999 European Council meeting in Cologne (EU9906180N), which, according to the unions, should lead to a smooth coordination of monetary, fiscal, tax and wage policy at European level.

Against this background, Heinz Putzhammer, a member of the executive board of the German Federation of Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB), has sharply criticised the European Central Bank, which recently demanded in that the collective bargaining parties in Europe continue with a policy of wage moderation. According to Mr Putzhammer, pay developments in recent years have shown that wage restraint does not automatically lead to the creation of new employment.

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