In January 1997, the cement company, Blue Circle (BCC), and two of Britain's
largest trade unions, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and the
General Municipal and Boilermakers Union (GMB), agreed what has been
described as a "ground breaking" deal which gives a guarantee of job
security, in return for pay restraint and more flexible working arrangements.
Both the unions and the Labour Party see the agreement as a model for future
employee relations, which could go some way towards reviving the fortunes of
the British economy.
The Institute for Economics and Social Science (Wirtschafts- und
Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) has recently published its annual
examination of the previous collective bargaining round. It paints a rather
mixed picture of 1996, a year in which collective bargaining was overshadowed
by continuing relatively poor economic performance and a further increase in
unemployment. GDP grew by only 1.4% over the year, while at the end of the
year more than 4 million people were officially registered as unemployed.
In recent years pressure has mounted on all parties involved to rethink and
revise the traditional policies and practices of Greek industrial relations
as well as to promote social dialogue between employers and employees. As a
result of changing conditions, some believe that a new era in industrial
relations and social dialogue has been inaugurated in Greece.
For the first time since 1960, the Belgian social partners have failed to
reach an intersectoral pay agreement and have instead accepted government
imposition of measures on employment and maximum pay increases. This
development runs counter to all traditions of free collective bargaining and
the autonomy of both sides of industry. It also appears to reinforce the
trend towards sector-level bargaining, away from intersectoral or
central-level bargaining, thereby widening the disparities between strong and
The issue of wage flexibility as a means of promoting employment growth was
initially put forward by the ex-president of Confindustria (the most
important Italian employers' association), Luigi Abete, as a problem which
had not been adequately dealt with in the 1993 income policy agreement. CISL,
one of the three main trade union confederations, later took up the wage
flexibility issue and proposed flexibility in starting wages (the so-called
"entrance salary") as a means of tackling the extremely serious employment
crisis in some southern regions of Italy.
The majority of Norwegian wage agreements are of two years' duration, and the
current settlements will expire during 1998. However, issues relating to
remuneration will be renegotiated at central level in 1997. Most of the
agreements between LO (the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions or
Landsorganisasjonen i Norge) and NHO (the Confederation of Norwegian Business
and Industry or Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon) in the private sector
expire on 31 March 1997, and bargaining is expected to commence in mid-March.
Agreements in the public sector expire one month later. The social partners
have not yet specified their demands, but all the central parties have held
initial bargaining conferences. In this feature, we describe the economic
climate in Norway prior to the wage negotiations, examine the provisional
demands the social partners have put forward, and comment on these demands in
the light of the existing social pact between the central labour market
parties in Norway, the so-called "Solidarity Alternative"
On 19 February, the Government presented a bill to Parliament, proposing
modifications in the legislation concerning the granting of workers' claims
in case of their employer's insolvency. There is no doubt that it will be
passed by Parliament. This will then be the second time the legislation has
been modified in order to comply with EU Council Directive 80/987/EEC on this
The immediate catalyst for the current prominence of working time in UK
industrial relations is the failure in November 1996 of the Government's
attempt to have the EU Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of
working time (Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993) annulled by
the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Steps are being taken to implement the
Directive, though the present Conservative Government hopes to get the
Directive "disapplied" if it wins the forthcoming general election. Also
important, however, is the growing debate about the implications for the
well-being of individuals and their families of the fact that UK's hours of
work are long in comparison with other EU member states.
According to a recent analysis by the Institute for Economics and Social
Science (Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) basic wages
and salaries in western Germany grew on average by about 2.3% in 1996. Thus,
pay increased by about 0.8 percentage points above the inflation rate, which
stood at 1.5% in 1996. Altogether, about 15.1 million employees were covered
by collective agreements signed in 1996. The highest pay increases, at 2.8%,
were in the energy and water industry and in the iron and steel industry. The
lowest increases were in banking (1.5%), post and telecommunications (1.4%)
and public services (1.3%).
The end of 1996 and the first two months of 1997 were marked by a wave of
strikes that began last November and December, upsetting the relative
industrial calm that had existed over recent years. The strikes peaked during
January but continued throughout February, for at least certain groups of
employees, though by then they had begun to peter out. The strikes represent
basically a head-on clash with the Government's policy of austerity, and
focus primarily on discontent with the tax system and a recently-passed tax
law. This clash also acquired a political character, since the demands of
workers across various sectors converged and merged within the wider context
The European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This publication series include the ERM reports, as well as blogs, articles and working papers on restructuring-related events in the EU27 and Norway.
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.
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).