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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.
On 18 March, the Government submitted a reform package to Parliament
addressing five civil service issues, among them the implementation of EC
Directive on working time (93/104/EC) in the civil service and more flexible
working time rules. Here we focus on the latter point. The new regulations
are expected to be voted on by Parliament in time to take effect on 1 June
A working group set up by the Standing Committee of the European Central
Banks' Trade Unions met in Ferreira do Zêzere in March, and issued a
declaration relating to the rights of workers involved in the production and
circulation of the Euro.
On 5 March 1997, the Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, informed the
political parties and social partners about the report drawn up by the
"Commission for macroeconomic compatibility of social expenditure", a
committee of experts established by the Government and chaired by Professor
Paolo Onofri. The proposals for reform deal with all the key elements of
public spending: healthcare, public assistance, and, of particular interest
for the industrial relations system, pensions and labour market policies.
This document drew critical reactions from the trade union confederations,
while the evaluation from the Confindustria employers' confederation was
The UK has been the main recipient of Toyota's European investment so far, at
its plant in Derby. If the UK were to lose the new investment to France, it
would be a huge blow to the Government which recently had to "rebuild some
fences" after the company announced in February 1997 that it might switch its
investment elsewhere in Europe if the UK did not join the single European
On 19 March 1997, Parliament passed a reform of the Arbeitszeitgesetz(AZG,
Working Time Act) - see Record AT9702102F . This necessitated minor
changes to the Arbeitsruhegesetz(ARG, Leisure Time Act) which were also
passed on 19 March. However, the parliamentary Labour and Social Affairs
Committee, at the behest of the social partners, had introduced wording
allowing more flexibility than hitherto in regard to Sunday work, causing a
major public debate in its wake. In future it will be possible for the social
partners to conclude collective agreements permitting exceptions from the
general ban on Sunday work. They can only do so, the law states, if it is
necessary in order to avoid economic disadvantage or to safeguard employment.
As far as this is feasible, the collective agreement has to specify the
activities to be permissible on Sundays and the time allowed for them. Until
now it was not possible to grant specific exemptions from the ban on Sunday
work except if the technology required continuous production. The Minister of
Labour and Social Affairs could, however, permit a whole industry to work on
The Government has published a working document, entitled "Maritime and ports
policy at the approach of the 21st Century", for public debate. In the
document it proposes a number of measures to deregulate dock work, and the
National Federation of Dockers' Unions has criticised the lack of prior
dialogue and is opposing the new proposals.
In the new collective agreement in the Dutch building industry, signed in
March 1997, a relatively large pay increase has been matched by a degree of
increased flexibility regarding the use of temporary employment agency
workers and the rules governing working hours.
In November 1996, the UK Government failed in its attempt to have the 1993
Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of working time (93/104/EC)
- which lays down specific requirements concerning weekly hours, holidays,
shifts and other patterns of work - annulled by the ECJ. The DTI launched
consultations with business organisations on implementation of the Directive
in December 1996, and the process was completed in March 1997. The DTI is now
analysing the responses, but is unlikely to produce the results until some
time after the 1 May general election.
Legislative changes have been introduced affecting "atypical" work under the
Contracts of Employment Act, the Study Leave Act and the Occupational Safety
Act. The changes came into force at the beginning of February and they aim to
bring the legal status of persons in such work closer to the status of
persons under a regular employment contract.