First collective agreement for information technology sector

October 2000 saw the conclusion of the first specific collective agreement for Austria's information technology sector, dealing with working time flexibility. The agreement is seen as a major step towards the regulation of employment conditions in the "new economy".

On 25 October 2000, a first-ever collective agreement was signed for the information technology (IT) sector. The agreement was negotiated by the business consultancy and and IT section (Fachverband Unternehmensberatung und Informationstechnologie) of the Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) and the Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA). The IT sector was previously covered only by the general agreement for the commerce sector, but the new agreement has been specifically concluded for the 20,000 employees of this booming area of activity. It encompasses companies and employees involved in: data processing and recording; software development and related fields; and administration of databases, internet services and related businesses. The telecommunications sector is not covered by the new agreement, since these companies have had a specific collective agreement since 1996.

The "new economy" sectors are especially important for trade union representation in Austria, since many employees of these growing sectors have strong strong reservations towards unions. Without long-standing traditions of representation, the recruitment of members is difficult for GPA, which seeks to represent all white-collar employees in the private service sector. However, GPA presents itself as the union which provides solutions for the "new economy". In this context, the negotiators regard the new collective agreement for IT as setting a pattern for other dynamic economic branches.

The collective agreement, which comes into force on 1 January 2001, lays down new regulations on flexible working time, providing for flexi-time (gleitende Arbeitszeit) and several other models. One important form is the "bandwidth model" (Bandbreitenmodell), whereby the usual weekly working time is 38.5 hours, distributed over five days. Normal working hours may be distributed flexibly, in that: maximum weekly working time may be extended to up to 45 hours; the maximum working day may be up to nine hours; while an average week of 38.5 hours must be maintained over a 12-month reference period.

The following principles apply to other aspects of working time:

  • normal daily working time may be extended to 10 hours if the weekly working time is regularly distributed over four consecutive days, or if flexi-time is applied. In the latter case, a "time account" of up to 154 hours (ie four times the normal working week of 38.5 hours) may be established for employees, to be balanced within the reference period of 12 months;
  • for shiftworkers, working time is to be arranged in such a way that the normal weekly working time of 38.5 hours is not exceeded; and
  • hours of overtime work must be reimbursed with a pay premium of 100% if the overtime takes place from 20.00 to 00.60 or on Sundays and public holidays. Otherwise, overtime is reimbursed with a premium of 50%. This new arrangement is an important aspect of the collective agreement, making overtime more attractive for employers.
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