Austria: Unions adamantly oppose proposed opt-out clauses

A debate on opt-out-clauses could be seen as a sign of a rougher political climate between the social partners, implying changes to the basics of the traditional social partnership model in Austria.

An intensive debate between employers' organisations and unions started in the second quarter of 2015 regarding opt-out clauses in collective agreements. The general secretary of the Federation of Austrian Industry (IV), Christop Neymayr, opened the debate, calling for an opt-out clause similar to the German model; the president of IV, Georg Kapsch, subsequently repeated the call. Opt-out clauses entitle employers and works councils at company level to negotiate agreements that allow pay levels to be set below the collective agreement at sector level.

The unions have reacted with indignation to the proposal. The Union of Salaried Employees, Graphical Workers and Journalists (GPA-djp) adopted a resolution in response, stating that the union would combat such a regulation using all available means. A forced and uncontrolled decentralisation of wage setting and bargaining would lead to unions concentrating their activities at company level, which in turn would increase the number of strikes. Referring to a statement by Georg Kapsch that the social partnership model in Austria in its existing form is dead, the leader of the GPA-djp stated that the unions perceive moves to promote opt-out clauses as a signal of the cancellation of the social partnership model by the IV and as a declaration of war on the unions.

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