Until recent years, largely due to the voluntary system of industrial
relations in the UK, a universal national minimum wage has never been more
than a passing thought. Instead, because of the growing awareness of poor
working conditions and low wages, trade boards were established in 1909 in
certain "sweated trades" to set minimum wages and standards. The areas and
industries under the boards' coverage began to widen, so that by the time
they became known as Wages Councils (WCs) in 1945 they covered some 4.5
million workers. But from the 1960s, the WCs came under increasing criticism
for three main reasons:
After a legal battle lasting more than three years between the management of
La Samaritaine (one of the five large Paris department stores), and its works
council and CGT union branch, two rulings by the highest court in the French
legal system on 13 February 1997, imposed the reinstatement of staff made
redundant, as part of the cancellation of a corporate "downsizing" procedure
(plan social). These rulings reveal the growing role of judges in the
supervision of redundancies.
The Ministry of Labour has chosen 20 municipalities in different parts of
Finland to participate in new forms of working time organisation on an
experimental basis. Results so far have been favourable.
The major labour market reform legislation of 1994 made important changes to
the framework for collective bargaining in Spain. This feature examines
bargaining trends since 1994, and analyses the positions of the parties
involved and the results of the reform.
In its response to the Commission's September 1996 Communication on the
development of the social dialogue (see Record EU9702102F ), UNICE (the
Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe) welcomes the
opportunity for debate and calls for a reinforcement of consultation with the
social partners. However, it argues that the treatment of fundamentally
different processes in one Communication adds a source of confusion to the
debate. These varied processes include: the consultation and negotiation
within the meaning of Article 118B of the EC Treaty and Article 3.1 of the
Agreement on social policy; Advisory Committees; the Standing Committee on
Employment; the joint sectoral committees and informal working groups;
tripartite bodies; joint operational initiatives; European Works Councils,
and the social dialogue in trans-boundary region. UNICE feels that the
Communication should have:
The typical trade union member of the future could well be a 30-year-old
female VDU operator, balancing both work and family responsibilities,
according to the TUC. A new report launched at the TUC's women's conference
held in Scarborough on 12-14 March, argues that if unions can rise to the
challenge, the number of women members could increase by as many as 400,000
by the turn of the century. According to the report (/Women and the new
unionism/), women now make up half of the workforce, but only a third are
members of a union. Young women are thought to be particularly difficult to
organise. Only 6% of women employees under the age of 20 years are presently
union members, compared with 24% aged between 20 and 29 years old.
According to a recent analysis by the Institute for Economics and Social
Science (Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) basic wages
and salaries in western Germany grew on average by about 2.3% in 1996. Thus,
pay increased by about 0.8 percentage points above the inflation rate, which
stood at 1.5% in 1996. Altogether, about 15.1 million employees were covered
by collective agreements signed in 1996. The highest pay increases, at 2.8%,
were in the energy and water industry and in the iron and steel industry. The
lowest increases were in banking (1.5%), post and telecommunications (1.4%)
and public services (1.3%).
On 19 February, the Government presented a bill to Parliament, proposing
modifications in the legislation concerning the granting of workers' claims
in case of their employer's insolvency. There is no doubt that it will be
passed by Parliament. This will then be the second time the legislation has
been modified in order to comply with EU Council Directive 80/987/EEC on this
The immediate catalyst for the current prominence of working time in UK
industrial relations is the failure in November 1996 of the Government's
attempt to have the EU Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of
working time (Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993) annulled by
the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Steps are being taken to implement the
Directive, though the present Conservative Government hopes to get the
Directive "disapplied" if it wins the forthcoming general election. Also
important, however, is the growing debate about the implications for the
well-being of individuals and their families of the fact that UK's hours of
work are long in comparison with other EU member states.
The end of 1996 and the first two months of 1997 were marked by a wave of
strikes that began last November and December, upsetting the relative
industrial calm that had existed over recent years. The strikes peaked during
January but continued throughout February, for at least certain groups of
employees, though by then they had begun to peter out. The strikes represent
basically a head-on clash with the Government's policy of austerity, and
focus primarily on discontent with the tax system and a recently-passed tax
law. This clash also acquired a political character, since the demands of
workers across various sectors converged and merged within the wider context
The European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This publication series include the ERM reports, as well as blogs, articles and working papers on restructuring-related events in the EU27 and Norway.
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021, an extraordinary edition conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was first carried out in 1990.
This publication series gathers all overview reports on developments in working life, annual reviews in industrial relations and working conditions produced by Eurofound on the basis of national contributions from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents (NEC). Since 1997, these reports have provided overviews of the latest developments in industrial relations and working conditions across the EU and Norway. The series may include recent ad hoc articles written by members of the NEC.
Eurofound’s work on COVID-19 examines the far-reaching socioeconomic implications of the pandemic across Europe as they continue to impact living and working conditions. A key element of the research is the e-survey, launched in April 2020, with five rounds completed at different stages during 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is complemented by the inclusion of research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic in much of Eurofound’s other areas of work.
Eurofound's representativeness studies are designed to allow the European Commission to identify the ‘management and labour’ whom it must consult under article 154 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This series consists of studies of the representativeness of employer and worker organisations in various sectors.
This series reports on developments in minimum wage rates across the EU, including how they are set and how they have developed over time in nominal and real terms. The series explores where there are statutory minimum wages or collectively agreed minimum wages in the Member States, as well as minimum wage coverage rates by gender.
The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) launched in 1990 and is carried out every five years, with the latest edition in 2015. It provides an overview of trends in working conditions and quality of employment for the last 30 years. It covers issues such as employment status, working time duration and organisation, work organisation, learning and training, physical and psychosocial risk factors, health and safety, work–life balance, worker participation, earnings and financial security, work and health, and most recently also the future of work.
Eurofound’s Flagship report series 'Challenges and prospects in the EU' comprise research reports that contain the key results of multiannual research activities and incorporate findings from different related research projects. Flagship reports are the major output of each of Eurofound’s strategic areas of intervention and have as their objective to contribute to current policy debates.
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) maps and analyses company policies and practices which can have an impact on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as the development of social dialogue in companies. This series consists of outputs from the ECS 2019, the fourth edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2004–2005 as the European Survey on Working Time and Work-Life Balance.
This series reports on and updates latest information on the involvement of national social partners in policymaking. The series analyses the involvement of national social partners in the implementation of policy reforms within the framework of social dialogue practices, including their involvement in elaborating the National Reform Programmes (NRPs).
The report describes trends in social and economic discontent across the EU between 2002 and 2020, highlighting in particular the turbulent times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report explores the evolution of social cohesion and its impact on economic and social discontent. It assesses the relationship between social cohesion and discontent during the pandemic, allowing for a comparison of the situation as it stands in 2023. The focus of the report is on regions where social cohesion is low, where a contrast is drawn with regions where social cohesion is much higher.
This report analyses the working conditions and job quality of different types of self-employed workers. Drawing on data from the European Working Conditions Survey, it looks into policies in Member States aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with specific types of self-employment.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the chemical sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound’s study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the chemical sector in the EU Member States.
The focus of this report is on the role that human capital plays in determining inequalities across the EU, as well as within Member States. Using Cedefop’s work in this area, the report provides a comparative analysis of national trends in education and lifelong learning, including differences between educational groups in terms of income, living conditions and health.
The report maps trends in income inequality and examines the situation of the middle classes in the EU during 2020, the year most associated with the COVID-19 lockdowns. It charts developments in the size and composition of middle-class households across countries, identifies those that suffered disproportionately in 2020. Taking a longer lens, the report describes the evolution of income inequalities over the last 15 years, comparing the Great Recession (2007–2009) with the COVID-19 pandemic, and outlines the trends both between and within Member States.
This report explores the implications of the right of all EU citizens to live independently. It investigates the barriers faced by people who wish to live independently, and the situation of people at risk of living in institutional settings. It maps the various measures taken by EU Member States to foster independent living and autonomy. The report also includes policy pointers to support future decision-makers and provides a review of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.