The shock announcement by French motor manufacturer Renault, on 28 February
1997, of the closure of its plant at Vilvoorde, led to an unprecedented
public display of condemnation among the political establishment of the
European Union (EU). The closure of the plant, in the Belgian Prime
Minister's constituency near Brussels, with the loss of 3,100 jobs, was
apparently announced without prior consultation with worker representatives.
The move was justified by Renault as being part of a wider reorganisation
aimed at making savings of over FRF 825 million per year. The closure of the
only Renault production site in Belgium is likely to lead a further 1,000
redundancies among suppliers and subcontractors; jobs which, in the current
economic climate in Belgium, are unlikely to be replaced in the near future.
The announcement came as a particularly heavy blow to a workforce who had
thought their jobs safe, having negotiated a major flexibility and investment
package only four years previously. The plant is generally regarded as being
highly productive and achieving high levels of quality. The decision by
Renault to close this plant in July 1997 has been interpreted by many workers
as a warning that even a willingness to accept more flexible working
practices can in future no longer be regarded as a guarantee for job
security. The predicament of the workers at Vilvoorde has led to an
unprecedented display of worker solidarity, not only among employees at other
Renault production sites in Europe, but also among workers in other troubled
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
At the end of February 1997 the education and employment minister, James
Paice, was warning that "people ignore at their peril the value of investing
in learning", arguing that too many employers still do not realise the value
of investing in their employees. He went on to say that action should be
taken immediately to drive up skill levels and standards to keep up with
growing international competition. Employers were said to be a crucial part
of this process but, it is "not how much you invest in training, its how you
invest it". The Government thus backs the Investors in People (IIP) standard,
as it shows that spending money on people is an investment and not a cost.
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.
The 1994 labour market reform led to a spectacular increase in part-time
employment contracts, which had hardly been used in Spain before that time.
This feature describes this development and points out the main
characteristics of the workers employed under these contracts, who are mainly
On 5 March 1997 the European Commission issued a Memorandum on the
interpretation of the 1977 Directive on business transfers (77/187/EEC) which
aims to clarify certain aspects of the Directive. It also seeks to address
the criticisms levied against the draft Directive to replace the 1977 text,
launched by the Commission in 1994. The proposed draft sought to take into
account the changed business environment following the implementation of the
single market project.
Until recent years, largely due to the voluntary system of industrial
relations in the UK, a universal national minimum wage has never been more
than a passing thought. Instead, because of the growing awareness of poor
working conditions and low wages, trade boards were established in 1909 in
certain "sweated trades" to set minimum wages and standards. The areas and
industries under the boards' coverage began to widen, so that by the time
they became known as Wages Councils (WCs) in 1945 they covered some 4.5
million workers. But from the 1960s, the WCs came under increasing criticism
for three main reasons:
The Ministry of Labour has chosen 20 municipalities in different parts of
Finland to participate in new forms of working time organisation on an
experimental basis. Results so far have been favourable.
After a legal battle lasting more than three years between the management of
La Samaritaine (one of the five large Paris department stores), and its works
council and CGT union branch, two rulings by the highest court in the French
legal system on 13 February 1997, imposed the reinstatement of staff made
redundant, as part of the cancellation of a corporate "downsizing" procedure
(plan social). These rulings reveal the growing role of judges in the
supervision of redundancies.
The major labour market reform legislation of 1994 made important changes to
the framework for collective bargaining in Spain. This feature examines
bargaining trends since 1994, and analyses the positions of the parties
involved and the results of the reform.
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021, an extraordinary edition conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was first carried out in 1990.
This publication series gathers all overview reports on developments in working life, annual reviews in industrial relations and working conditions produced by Eurofound on the basis of national contributions from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents (NEC). Since 1997, these reports have provided overviews of the latest developments in industrial relations and working conditions across the EU and Norway. The series may include recent ad hoc articles written by members of the NEC.
Eurofound’s work on COVID-19 examines the far-reaching socioeconomic implications of the pandemic across Europe as they continue to impact living and working conditions. A key element of the research is the e-survey, launched in April 2020, with five rounds completed at different stages during 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is complemented by the inclusion of research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic in much of Eurofound’s other areas of work.
Eurofound's representativeness studies are designed to allow the European Commission to identify the ‘management and labour’ whom it must consult under article 154 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This series consists of studies of the representativeness of employer and worker organisations in various sectors.
This series reports on developments in minimum wage rates across the EU, including how they are set and how they have developed over time in nominal and real terms. The series explores where there are statutory minimum wages or collectively agreed minimum wages in the Member States, as well as minimum wage coverage rates by gender.
The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) launched in 1990 and is carried out every five years, with the latest edition in 2015. It provides an overview of trends in working conditions and quality of employment for the last 30 years. It covers issues such as employment status, working time duration and organisation, work organisation, learning and training, physical and psychosocial risk factors, health and safety, work–life balance, worker participation, earnings and financial security, work and health, and most recently also the future of work.
The European Restructuring Monitor has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This series includes its restructuring-related databases (events, support instruments and legislation) as well as case studies and publications.
Eurofound’s Flagship report series 'Challenges and prospects in the EU' comprise research reports that contain the key results of multiannual research activities and incorporate findings from different related research projects. Flagship reports are the major output of each of Eurofound’s strategic areas of intervention and have as their objective to contribute to current policy debates.
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) maps and analyses company policies and practices which can have an impact on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as the development of social dialogue in companies. This series consists of outputs from the ECS 2019, the fourth edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2004–2005 as the European Survey on Working Time and Work-Life Balance.
This series reports on and updates latest information on the involvement of national social partners in policymaking. The series analyses the involvement of national social partners in the implementation of policy reforms within the framework of social dialogue practices, including their involvement in elaborating the National Reform Programmes (NRPs).
This report analyses the working lives of workers in Europe in 2021, when the continent was still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. It examines working conditions during that period and the association between job quality and work outcomes such as health and well-being, work–life balance, and financial security. The report also considers how the shifts in working life during the pandemic are likely to affect work in the future.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the textiles and clothing sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the textiles and clothing sector in the EU Member States.
This report is carried out in the context of the three-year pilot project (2021–2023), ‘Role of the minimum wage in establishing the Universal Labour Guarantee’, mandated to Eurofound by the European Commission. Its focus is module 3 of the project, investigating minimum wages and other forms of pay for the self-employed. Out of concern for the challenging conditions faced by certain groups of self-employed workers, some Member States have established or are in discussions about proposing some statutory forms of minimum pay for selected categories of the self-employed.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the electricity sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the electricity sector in the EU Member States.
The hospital sector has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals and their workers are on the frontline in the fight against the virus, and they face a number of significant challenges in terms of resources, work organisation and working conditions. This study will explore the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in how the sector is adapting to the pandemic. What kinds of changes have been introduced, either through social dialogue or collective bargaining? Are the changes temporary or permanent?
This report analyses the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in addressing the challenges faced by the civil aviation sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social partner involvement in the measures introduced to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic varies across European countries. Social dialogue and collective bargaining played a prominent role in most countries, while in others they had a more limited role. The report also explores changes made to existing social dialogue and/or collective bargaining processes at national level.
The report provides an overview of the scale of teleworking before and during the COVID-19 crisis and gives an indication of ‘teleworkability’ across sectors and occupations. Building on previous Eurofound research on remote work, the report investigates the way businesses introduced and supported teleworking during the pandemic, as well as the experience of workers who were working from home during the crisis. The report also looks at developments in regulations related to telework in Member States and provides a review of stakeholders’ positions.
This paper provides an analytical summary of state of the art academic and policy literature on the impact of climate change and policies to manage transitions to a carbon neutral economy on employment, working conditions, social dialogue and living conditions. It maps the key empirical findings around the impact of climate change and the green transitions on jobs, sectors, regions and countries in Europe, identifying the opportunities and risks that climate change policies bring to European labour markets.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the textiles and clothing sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements.
This report offers the most up to date insight on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work and life of Europeans over the last two years. The main focus is on Eurofound’s e-survey Living, working and COVID-19 which was launched on 9 April 2020 just after the onset of the crisis. Through five rounds of the survey (two in 2020, two in 2021 and one in 2022), the range of questions changed to match the evolving situation and to understand the effects on the everyday lives of citizens and workers in the EU27.