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  • 1999 Annual Review for the United Kingdom

    1999 saw GDP growth decrease to 1.2%, from 2.2% in 1998 and 3.5% in 1997. However, inflation slowed, to 1.3% compared with 3.2% in 1998 and 2.8% in 1997. The unemployment rate decreased slightly from 6.4% (1,804,000 people) in 1998 to 6.3% (1,778,000) in 1999, continuing the decline which has been witnessed since 1993, when the rate stood at 10.7% (2,996,000). Public debt as a percentage of GDP fell from 41.4% in 1998 to 39% in 1999, continuing a decline from the recent high-point of 44.2% recorded in 1996.
  • Strike at BT highlights union concern over conditions in call centres

    On 22 November 1999, staff at British Telecommunications (BT) call centres staged a one-day strike in protest at their "intolerable" working conditions. According to the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) which organised the strike, around 95% of its 4,000 members in 37 call centres took industrial action in what was the first national strike at BT for 13 years. The move followed a ballot in which 81% of those voting supported industrial action to highlight a range of staff concerns involving "stress, a bullying management style, unachievable targets and the widespread use of agency workers", and the failure of "11th-hour" talks between management and union officials. Following the strike, the union said that BT management had agreed to meet CWU officials to discuss the issues, but, pending a successful outcome to the talks, further days of action were planned for 10 December and early in the new year.
  • Manufacturing unions in merger talks

    On 16 November 1999, Roger Lyons, general secretary of the Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) trade union announced plans for a merger with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU). With a combined membership of over 1 million (the AEEU reported some 720,000 members in 1998, the MSF some 430,000), the merged union would have a strong presence in manufacturing but would also represent workers in a range of other sectors including construction, energy supply, financial services and public services. Proposals for the new union follow a number of major union mergers over recent years (UK9705131N [1]), most recently between three unions in the financial services sector to create UNIFI (UK9903193N [2]). A merger between the AEEU and MSF would create the UK's second-largest union behind the public services union UNISON, which was itself formed when three unions merged in 1993. [1] [2]
  • 1999 Annual Review Comparative Overview

    Following the launch of the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the euro single currency on 1 January 1999, the economic performance of EU Member States is being kept within the parameters set by the Stability Pact. Thus, the economies of the 11 "euro-zone" countries are falling into step with each other and the four countries outside the euro-zone (Denmark, Greece, Sweden and the UK) are following a policy of pegging their economic performance to the euro-zone countries.
  • 1999 Annual Review for Sweden

    GDP growth in 1998 was 2.6%. Preliminary figures for 1999 show a rising trend, with growth of 3.7% in the second quarter of the year compared with the same period in 1998 (according to data from Statistics Sweden). GDP at market prices, according to Eurostat, was SEK 1,890,202 million in 1998. Public debt was 74.2% of GDP in 1998, and the general government deficit was 1.9% of GDP. The unemployment rate (as defined by Eurostat harmonised indices) was 6.6% of the labour force, as at October 1999. The inflation rate (expressed in Eurostat harmonised indices of consumer prices), was 0.8% in November 1999.
  • Telia management and unions welcome end of merger with Telenor

    On 20 January 1999, the Swedish and Norwegian governments announced an intended merger between their respective state-owned telecommunications firms, Telia and Telenor. After nine months of lively discussions between the parties, and following confirmation by the European Commission, the merger agreement was concluded on 19 October 1999. However, on 16 December, after less than two months of operation, it was announced that the merger had ended
  • Employers take builders' union to court over examination fee

    At the beginning of November 1999, the Swedish Construction Federation (Byggentreprenörerna) handed in an application for summons to the Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen AD). The application contains an accusation that the Swedish Building Workers' Union (Byggarbetarförbundet, Byggnads) is in breach of the Council of Europe's European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [1], specifically the right for an individual not to join a trade union, the so-called negative freedom of association, based on Article 11. The Convention was incorporated into Swedish law in January 1995. The application also refers to Article 5 (on the right to organise) of the Council of Europe's European Social Charter [2], point 11 (on freedom of association) of the EU's Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers and section 8 of the Swedish Co-Determination in the Workplace Act (medbestämmandelagen) [1] [2]
  • Ministry proposes new rules on unemployment insurance

    On 19 November 1999, a delayed proposal on unemployment insurance, much discussed in advance by the social partners, was presented by the Swedish Ministry for Industry, Employment and Communication (näringsdepartmentet). About 70 possible changes to the system drawn up by a Ministry working party were published in a report entitled /Kontrakt för arbete - rättvisa och tydliga regler i arbetslöshetsförsäkringen/ (/Ds 1999:58/). The main proposals include:
  • 1999 Annual Review for PORTUGAL

    The Portuguese economy continued to grow, though at a slightly slower rate, in 1999. GDP grew by 3.1% in 1999 (Ministry of Finance estimate), compared with 3.9% in 1998 (which had been the peak of a rising trend since 1993, when a negative figure of -1.2% was recorded). The public spending deficit stood at 1.8% of GDP in 1999, down from 2.3% in 1998 and 2.5% in 1997 (and continuing a downward trend from 7.0% in 1993). Public debt stood at 56.8% of GDP in 1999 (Ministry of Finance estimate), compared with 57.0% in 1998 and 61.4% in 1997 (continuing the decline since the 69.6% recorded in 1994). The 1999 inflation rate was 2.3%, compared with 2.8% in 1998 and 2.2% in 1997 - inflation figures have been much lower in the past three years than they were in the early 1990s (when the figure reached 13.4% in 1990).
  • CGTP holds ninth Congress

    Portugal's CGTP trade union confederation held its ninth congress in December 1999. The congress heralded change, in terms of both the issues it dealt with and the organisational changes agreed.