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The Spanish Parliament approved the reform of the legal framework on the
prevention of risks in the workplace  /(pdf file)/ (Reforma del marco
normativo de la prevención de riesgos laborales) on 27 November 2003. The
reform aims to reduce the rates of work-related accidents across all
industrial sectors. Changes have also been approved to the law on infractions
and sanctions in the social order  (Ley de infracciones y sanciones en el
orden social, 2000), relating to industrial relations infringements.
On 19 November 2003, the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions
(Landsorganisationen, LO) presented a new report on employment forms and
working time (Anställningsformer och arbetstider 2003 ). The report is
based on data from the official Labour Force Survey conducted by Sweden
Statistics (Statistiska Centralbyrån) covering the period from the first
quarter of 1990 to the first quarter 2003. The report is a follow-up to a
similar exercise conducted in 2001 (SE0109101F ).
A series of studies published in 2003 indicates that Italy’s 'hidden' or
irregular economy continues to grow. According to the most recent figures,
3.5 million workers out of a total labour force of around 23.5 million are
irregular, a rate of around 15%. The growth of undeclared work is matched by
that of the hidden economy, which is worth between 15.2% and 16.9% of GDP.
The hidden economy is particularly important in the South and in certain
economic sectors. The Cgil trade union confederation has called for new
measures to deal with the problem.
On average, younger people in Finland today are better educated than older
people - see table 1 below. At same time, structural changes in the economy
have diminished the number of low-skill jobs and a low level of education can
easily lead to long-term unemployment. Education is considered as the key to
Finland's competitiveness and economic growth. The economic globalisation
process especially has emphasised the importance of education and the supply
of a highly-skilled labour force for a small open economy like Finland, which
can not compete on low-skill jobs with the developing countries. It is thus
an important question whether incentives in society encourage individual
investment in a high level of education.
The European-level social partners in the commerce sector (EU9807115F ) -
UNI-Europa Commerce for trade unions and EuroCommerce for employers -
organised a conference in Brussels on 10-11 November 2003, which was attended
by 150 company managers and trade union leaders. The conference participants
discussed how social dialogue at different levels can promote high-quality
employment in commerce. They focused on the link between corporate social
responsibility (CSR) and the working conditions of commerce workers. One of
the areas covered by the conference was good practice, and three leading
European retailers - the UK-based Tesco, German-based Metro and French-based
Carrefour- highlighted examples from their corporate strategy in this area.
An extraordinary 'tripartite social summit' was held in Brussels on 11
December 2003, the day before the European Council meeting (EU0312209F ).
The decision to hold this meeting prior to this Council was taken at a
European Council meeting in October 2003, during which concern was expressed
by some Member States about the economic and employment situation in Europe.
It was felt that the views of the social partners would play a vital role in
restoring the potential for economic and employment growth in Europe.
Tripartite social summits are usually held on the eve of the annual spring
European Council meeting on economic and social issues (EU0304201N ).
On 4 December 2003, the Estonian Employees’ Unions’ Confederation (Eesti
Teenistujate Ametiliitude Keskorganisatsioon, TALO ) - Estonia's second
largest central trade union organisation (EE0308101F ) - held a one-day
strike to support its demands for pay increases for employees in educational
and cultural activities. The main purpose of the strike was to demand wage
increases for employees with a higher education working full time in a
position demanding higher education and financed from the state budget
(EE0311103F ). TALO represents employees working in the fields of
education, culture, media, agriculture, sports, science, technology and
healthcare. Of 80,000 public sector workers with a higher education who
receive their wages from the state or local government budgets, 35,000 are
members of TALO. Only a small share of TALO’s members work in the private
Under transitional arrangements agreed by the EU and new Member States in
central and eastern Europe which will join in 1 May 2004, the existing Member
States may limit movements of workers from the new Member States for a period
of up to seven years after enlargement. On 2 December 2003, the Danish
government secured support for a political agreement which will give workers
from central and eastern Europe access to the Danish labour market from the
first day of their EU membership - as will also be the case in countries such
as the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. However, in the Danish case
this permission is subject to a number of special conditions (DK0310101N
Since 1989, Bulgaria has faced the double challenge of economic and political
transition and preparation for accession to the European Union (expected in
2007). Since the 1990s, accession has become an over-riding priority,
supported unconditionally by all political parties. In line with this
priority, Bulgaria has been speeding up the pace of adopting the 'acquis
communautaire' (the body of EU law which acceding countries must implement),
including with regard to equality and non-discrimination.
In late 2003, four trade unions affiliated to the Confederation of Vocational
Unions (Yrkesorganisasjonenes Sentralforbund, YS) have come a long way in
preparing for a merger. If everything goes according to plan, the new union
will be formally established in autumn 2004. The new union will have
approximately 90,000 members, becoming YS’s largest affiliate and
Norway’s fourth-largest trade union. Several member unions of the Norwegian
Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen i Norge, LO) are also
considering possible mergers: in the transport and service sector, six unions
are considering the creation of a single service sector union; while in
manufacturing industry, the Graphical Workers' Union (Norsk Grafisk Forbund,
NGF) is negotiating a possible merger with the Norwegian United Federation of
Trade Unions (Fellesforbundet).