Actors and institutions - Q1 2014 (EurWORK topical update)

This article presents some of the key developments and research findings on aspects of actors and institutions in the EU and Norway in the EU during the first quarter of 2014. Government shifts, institutional and legislative change, membership of social partner organisations and activities of trade union and employer organisations in different Member States are the main focus of this topical update.

Changes in governments across the EU

In Austria, a new federal government taking power in late 2013 brought about some shifts in competences among the ministries responsible for labour, social affairs, economics, education, women's affairs and family policy.  

In Finland, the Left Alliance party exited the now former six-party coalition government on 25 March. The party does not accept the government's saving package motion that intends to cut basic social security. Because the other governmental parties have accepted the proposal, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said that the Left Alliance should leave the government.

In Germany, following the federal elections in September, the grand coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) decided on the ministerial positions in mid-December. Now the Labour Ministry, the Economics Ministry, the Ministry of Justice, of Ecology and of Family Affairs/Women are headed by Social Democrats, the Ministries of Finances, of the Interior, of Research/Education and of Health by CDU and the Ministries of Digital Development/Transport and of Agriculture/Food by CSU.

Trends in membership of social partner organisations

Developments reported in the first quarter of 2014 continued to follow the same trends of the last few years: decreases in trade union membership in most countries and overall stability or some slight increases in membership of employer organisations. Changes in the membership of social partner organisation took place in few countries, as detailed below.

The Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) suffered membership losses of 0.40% in 2013 compared to 2012, despite gaining 63,400 new members. The Union for Municipal Employees and the small Arts, Media, Sports and Liberal Professions (GdG-KMSfB), Union of Post and Telecommunications Employees (GPF) and the Vida services union suffered most of the losses. However, the Union of Salaried Employees, Graphical Workers and Journalists (GPA-djp) and the Union of Public Employees (GÖD) saw slight increases in their membership numbers.

In Cyprus, decreasing membership was reported by the three main trade unions for the private sector: the Democratic Federation of Labour (DEOK), the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) and the Cyprus Workers’ Confederation (SEK).  

In Finland, SAK, the central organisation for blue collar trade unions, saw a decrease of about 11,000 members from 2013 but there was an increase in membership for AKAVA, the central organisation for workers with academic degrees. No change in membership was reported for STTK, the central organisation for white-collar trade unions.

In Germany, according to the latest figures from the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), the combined membership level of its eight affiliated trade unions declined by just 0.1% in 2013. The overall development was positively influenced by the fact that the United Services Union (ver.di), the second largest DGB affiliate, managed to draw a positive balance in 2013 and to record the first growth in membership since its foundation in 2001. The German metalworkers’ union (IG Metall) managed for the third consecutive year to record a growth in membership.

The main union in Luxembourg, OGBL, reported an increase in its membership in 2013.

Latest data on trade union density in Malta records a level of 51.6% (1 July 2012–30 June 2013) and an increase in membership. The Maltese Registrar Report records 15 employer associations, with a total of 9,084 members, a decrease of 4% from the previous year. Most losses were reported by the Association of General Retailers and Traders Union representing small and medium-sized enterprises (-2.9%). However, the Malta Employers' Association (MEA) with 465 members and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) with 286 membership, registered slight increases during 2013.

For the first time in the last few years, the Swedish National Mediation Office (MI) reported an increase in trade union membership in 2012, with a positive trend for white-collar workers, but the trend of decreasing membership continues for blue-collar workers. Trade union density decreased since the mid-1990s and it is now stable at around 70%– 83 % in the public sector and 65% in the private sector. Density of employer organisations has been more stable or increasing in comparison with trade unions. Around 81% of all private employees in Sweden work in a company which is a member of an employer organisation, with 100% in the public sector.

Developments in social partners’ organisations in the EU

Estonia and Latvia: International cooperation between unions

The Union of Financial Sector Employees and the Financial Sector Trade Union of Latvia concluded a memorandum of cooperation. The aim of the initiative is to develop cooperation and to exchange information with a view to creating a stable, secure and growth-oriented working environment and to increase the social guarantees of the employees in financial sector.

Norway: New trade unions

An independent union for cabin crew members – the Norwegian Cabin Association (Norsk kabinforening) – and for pilots – the Norwegian Airline Pilots Association (Norsk flygerforbund) – are both considering affiliation to one of the main trade unions, LO, YS or UNIO. YS already has members in the aviation sector through the affiliated union Parat. Decisions are being made during the summer.

Greece, Hungary and Spain: Trade union mergers 

In Greece, according to an announcement in February 2014 from the Committee for the Establishment of a New Trade Union Faction the 'reconstruction of the labour movement and the combative representation of all employees', led a number of trade unionists in the public and private sector to establish a unified new trade union faction for both private and public sector employees. The first nationwide founding conference took place in mid-March 2014.

The Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ) was legally registered in February as a result of a merging of the Autonomous Trade Union Confederation (ASZSZ), the National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions (MSZOSZ) and the Forum for the Co-operation of Trade Unions (SZEF). MASZSZ is currently the largest among the four national trade union federations with its 250,000 active and 100,000 retired members.

In March, the Spanish UGT Trade Union approved the creation of the new Federation of Services for Mobility and Consumption, as a result of the merger of two UGT federations on transport, communications and sea commerce, catering, tourism and game. The move is aimed at optimising the resources of UGT and stimulating its activities.

Bulgaria, Lithuania and Italy: Trade union cooperation

Leaders of CITUB and the political party Bulgaria without Censorship met in March 2014 in relation to the upcoming European Elections and in support of early parliamentary elections. They agreed to continue cooperation in favour of the development of socio-economic aspects of the electoral platform of the party.

In March, Lithuanian trade unions discussed establishing long-term cooperation at a meeting attended by the president of the main trade union confederation, representatives of sectoral trade unions and a number of leaders of trade unions not affiliated to any national centres.

In February, CGIL the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions (CISL), the Italian Labour Union (UIL) and Confcommercio signed a framework agreement on paritarian institutions. The framework agreement is aimed at defining guidelines to promote aggregation among paritarian institutions, accountability and transparency.

Italy: Split from employer’s organisation

In 2013, Federdistribuzione, the largest employers’ association for retail and distribution in Italy, announced its intention to part company with the Italian Confederation of Employers, Professional Activities and Autonomous Work (Confcommercio) and their collective bargaining agreements. This will affect about 90,000 to 120,000 employees. The departure also implied that Federdistruzione associates will no longer benefit from pension funds and occupational health-care schemes based on Confcommercio’s collective bargaining agreements. The dissociation was effective from January 2014. Federdistribuzione is going to bargain and apply new regimes for collective agreements and pension fund and occupational health-care schemes.

Croatia: New advisory council

In Croatia, an Advisory Council consisting of representatives of the academic community, trade unions and employer organisations was established by the Ministry of Labour and Pension System. At its first meeting on 3 March 2014, various problems concerning the Croatian labour market were discussed. According to the Labour Inspectorate Act (OG 19/14), the Labour Inspectorate is no longer part of the State Inspectorate of the Republic of Croatia but is now operating as part of the Ministry of Labour and Pension System.

Internal changes in institutions

A series of elections took place in Austria between January and May 2014. All nine federal states held elections for representatives on the governing bodies of the Chambers of Labour (AK).  At the time of reporting, the Social Democratic Trade Unionists (FSG) won in four of the six provinces and the Austrian Workers’ Federation (ÖAAB) in the other two.

The Czech Republic Minister for Labour and Social Affairs promised a significant personnel boost in the Labour Office of the Czech Republic (ÚP ČR) in order to improve its working conditions and functioning. It is also planned to reinforce the competencies of regional and local branches of the Labour Office.

On 20 January 2014, an independent review of the Police Federation – the organisation which represents 127,000 police officers in England and Wales – recommended an urgent and radical overhaul of the federation, intended to regain the trust of its members and the public. The report, carried out by an external review panel chaired by former Home Office permanent secretary, Sir David Normington, called for fundamental reform of the federation. The review was commissioned by the leadership of the federation itself.

Changes in legislation affecting social partners

In March, the Bulgarian Confederation of Labour Podkrepa proposed changes to the Labour Code, Social Security and Health and Safety at Work. The proposal concerns working time arrangements, overtime and additional payments for shiftwork and changes in collective bargaining. The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) threatened to leave the tripartite council over the provision of the new Penal Code regarding the imprisonment of employers failing to pay social security for employees.

Provisions introduced in France include a new law requiring Works Councils to appoint a treasurer and retain documents and records regarding the organisation of the works councils for a minimum of 10 years. This act aims to ensure transparency in the funding of the accounts.

A new decree aimed at reforming the organisation of labour inspectorates was published on 21 March 2014, intended to serve as the new level of territorial intervention. Legislation on vocational training, employment and social democracy introduced a reorganisation of financing for employees and employers. An intersectoral agreement will be concluded by the end of 2014, replacing the current funding system. The conditions for establishing the representatives of employers' organisations including multi-professional have been defined in the Labour Code, under the law on vocational training, employment and social democracy, adopted by Parliament on 27 February.

In Latvia, the new trade union law was adopted by the parliament in March, following adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers in June 2013. The new law aims to improve and modernise the legal framework for trade union activities, as well as removing incongruities with other legal acts.

In Romania, a new law on the organisation of the Social and Economic Council (SEC) was passed by the Parliament. The adoption of the social dialogue law in May 2012 affected the operation of the SEC and the new law is aimed at its partial reform.

About this article

This article is based mainly on contributions from Eurofound’s network of national correspondents. Further resources on actors and institutions can be obtained from Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) and European Company Survey (ECS).

For further information, contact Camilla Galli da Bino: gdb@eurofound.europa.eu

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Add new comment