12 maj 2004
On 24 November 2002, a general elections was held, which had become necessary due to conflicts within the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ). These elections saw the ÖVP emerge as the clear winner. It increased its vote by more than 15 percentage points to 42.3%, thus becoming the largest party in parliament for the first time since 1970 (AT0301204F ). After a three-month period of negotiations with all parties represented in parliament, on 21 February 2003 the ÖVP decided to continue its previous coalition government with the FPÖ, which had lost almost two-thirds of its 2000 vote, receiving only 10.0%.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/2002-annual-review-for-austria
09 maj 2004
On 30 April 2004, the management of the Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen, ÖBB) and representatives of the Union of Railway Employees (Gewerkschaft der Eisenbahner, GdE) agreed new 'service regulations' applying to about 47,000 railway employees. This agreement was concluded under a government threat unilaterally to alter the existing public service employment regulations by law, if the parties failed to reach a settlement by the end of April.
20 april 2004
In March 2003, the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) presented a study of the effects of Austria’s childcare benefit scheme (Kinderbetreuungsgeld), conducted by Hedwig Lutz of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, WIFO). The study’s findings question the scheme’s effectiveness in terms of women’s chances to participate in the labour market after taking parental leave (AT0304201N ). One year later, at the end of March 2004, AK presented a more differentiated, updated follow-up study on the same issue, drawn up by the same author on behalf of AK ('Wiedereinstieg und Beschäftigung von Frauen mit Kleinkindern'). In general, this updated research, which is based on more reliable empirical data than the 'pioneer' study, corroborates the results of the latter, with slight modifications in detail.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/controversy-over-childcare-benefit
05 april 2004
In mid-March 2004, the Minister of Economy and Labour Affairs, Martin Bartenstein, presented a draft bill on 'labour market reform' (Arbeitsmarktreformgesetz). This includes a proposal which provides for the possibility for all categories of self-employed people to opt for voluntary insurance against the risk of unemployment. According to the draft, from 1 January 2005 all 340,000 or so self-employed people in Austria would be entitled voluntarily to contribute some 6% of their gross income to the unemployment insurance fund, which would (after a minimum one-year period of contributions) grant them eligibility to receive unemployment benefit on losing their jobs.
28 mars 2004
Austria has a long tradition of a relatively high level of seasonal labour, especially in 'typically' seasonal branches such as tourism and agriculture. Seasonal labour has always been characterised by a disproportionately high share of foreign workers. The legal status of foreign seasonal workers differs considerably from that of all other resident or foreign employees working in Austria, in particular in terms of labour law and security of residence. Seasonal labour is particularly important for employers that require short-term labour due to fluctuations in demand. This means that seasonal workers may be employed during short-term periods of higher demand for labour. When the employment relationship comes to an end, the foreign worker must subsequently leave the country.
07 mars 2004
On 24 February 2004, the cabinet council agreed a transitional regulation which aims to ensure a medium-term continuation of the current restrictions on entry to the Austrian labour market for workers from the EU acceding countries in central and eastern Europe, during the first years of their EU membership. In the face of the forthcoming accession of 10 new EU Member States on 1 May 2004, the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) has drawn up a regulation which seeks to continue the present restrictive access regime for entry to the Austrian labour market for workers from outside the current European Economic Area (EEA) (AT9703104F ). In more detail, the government plans to enact an EU Enlargement Adaptation Act (EU Erweiterungs-Anpassungsgesetz) which will prohibit employees from most of the new EU Member States from entering Austria’s labour market without restriction from 1 May 2004, for a transitional period of up to seven years (as permitted under arrangements agreed by the EU and new Member States in central and eastern Europe). Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel of the ÖVP stated that this regulation will, for the next few years, protect resident employees from cheaper (ie low-wage) foreign competitors.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/undefined-law-and-regulation-labour-market-social-policies/the-legal-position-of-foreign-nationals
01 mars 2004
In early January 2004, the coalition government of the conservative People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) and the populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) presented a draft for a comprehensive taxation reform. This reform aims to reduce taxes for both employees and companies and, it is planned, should be enacted by parliament by June 2004. According to Karl-Heinz Grasser, the minister of finance, these measures are devised to reduce the overall rate of taxation (paid by employees and employers) from the current 43% of the GDP to 42.3% from 2005, when the reform should come into effect. Despite the planned cut in tax returns for the state, Mr Grasser calculates the 2005 budgetary deficit at no higher than 1.5% of GDP. The total volume of tax relief due to the draft reform is planned to amount to EUR 2 billion and EUR 3 billion per year.
22 februari 2004
On 12 December 2003, the Federal Organisation of the Electrical and Electronics Industry (Fachverband der Elektro- und Elektronikindustrie, FEEI) on the employers’ side and the blue-collar Metalworking and Textiles Union (Gewerkschaft Metall-Textil, GMT) and white-collar Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA) on the employees’ side concluded a new collective agreement for the electrical and electronics sector. After a three-year period of negotiations, the social partners in this sector managed to reach a settlement on a new common pay scheme for both employee groups - ie blue-collar and white-collar workers. Accordingly, the sector's 250 companies and 58,000 employees will be covered by a new classification scheme (Beschäftigtengruppenschema) providing for a more precise single classification of jobs. This aim to replace the old classification system which has been widely perceived as too inflexible and imprecise, with problems of incorrect classification arising mostly to the detriment of women (AT0103209F ). The new scheme is devised to improve the validity of job classifications, in particular regarding formally unskilled workers actually working as skilled/trained employees. These advantages, however, are counterbalanced by a less favourable system of automatic pay increments (Vorrückungssystem) as compared with the current automatic two-yearly increments. However, the new agreement stipulates another additional pay scheme analogous to the so-called 'distribution option' which has been laid down in collective agreements on several occasions in the past (AT0111229N ). Under the new agreement, a certain proportion of the collectively agreed pay increase (Verteilungsvolumen) can be flexibly distributed among the employees of an individual establishment. In contrast to the 'distribution option' which was voluntary, the new clause is binding on the employer.  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/social-policies-undefined-industrial-relations/gender-related-pay-differentials-examined  www.eurofound.europa.eu/ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/new-collective-agreements-concluded-in-metalworking
15 februari 2004
Estimates released by the Association of Social Security Providers (Hauptverband der Sozialversicherungsträger, HSV) at the end of January 2004 indicate a small growth in the average amount of sickness absence among Austrian employees in 2003. According to these preliminary data, the average number of days of sickness absence from work per employee stood at between 13.0 and 13.1 in 2003, up from an average of 12.9 days in 2002. Similarly, the average duration of sickness absence per case increased slightly, from 12.2 in 2002 to 12.3 days in 2003. Moreover, the total of days of sick leave grew from 36.4 million in 2002 to an estimated 36.7 million in 2003. However, this corresponded approximately to the increase in the total number of employees over this period. These figures refer to all employees in Austria except for railway employees and career public servants (Beamte), thus covering about 2.8 million workers.
27 januari 2004
In November 2003, the EIRO national centres in each EU Member State (plus Norway), were asked, in response to a questionnaire, to give a brief overview of: the procedures and costs involved in collective redundancies - ie the dismissal of a number of employees for economic/organisational reasons (rather than reasons related to the individuals concerned); the levels of, and reasons for, redundancies over recent years; and current debate on the issue. The Austrian responses are set out below (along with the questions asked).