Impact of the working time directive on collective bargaining in the road transport sector — Austria

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 18 december 2007


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Collective bargaining in the road transport sector follows the standard pattern in Austria, with all the sector’s companies belonging to the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO) and its relevant subunits and thus a collective bargaining coverage of 100%. The – delayed – implementation of the working time directive 2002/15/EC by the Austrian legislator in August 2006 has had only minor effects on collective bargaining in the road transport sector, but has tended to deteriorate rather than improve the concerned employees’ working conditions. This is because – due to the responsible union’s weakness in the sector – the additional scope for collective bargaining resulting from the legal implementation of the directive could be used only to the benefit of the employers’ side.


Working time for mobile workers in the road transport sector is covered by Directive on working time in the road transport sector

(Directive 2002/15/EC)

This Directive establishes minimum requirements in relation to the organisation of working time in order to improve the health and safety protection of persons performing mobile road transport activities and to improve road safety and align conditions of competition. Member states were requested to implement this Directive by 23 March 2005. However, some countries have yet to transpose it.

The Directive provides a definition of the types of activities that should be included in the calculation of working time. These are: driving; loading and unloading; assisting passengers boarding and disembarking from the vehicle; cleaning and technical maintenance; and all other work intended to ensure the safety of the vehicle. It also covers the times during which a worker cannot dispose freely of their time and are required to be at their workstation. The Directive also regulates maximum weekly working time, breaks, rest periods and night work.

Unlike the working time Directive, the Directive governing working time in road transport does not allow any opt-out. This means that companies operating in this sector need to ensure that the working time of their workforce complies with the Directive. However, under Article 8 of the Directive, derogations can be made from the provisions on maximum working time and night work, for objective or technical reasons or reasons concerning the organisation of work, through collective agreements, agreements between the social partners, or by laws, regulations or administrative provisions, provided there is consultation of the representatives of the employers and workers concerned and efforts are made to encourage all relevant forms of social dialogue.

At present, the Directive does not apply to self-employed drivers. As it states, the European Commission will undertake a review of the situation after four years of operation. Therefore, at the latest by 23 March 2007, the European Commission will issue a report to the European Parliament and the Council analysing the consequences of the exclusion of self-employed drivers in areas such as road safety, conditions of competition, the structure of the profession and a range of social aspects. On the basis of this report, the Commission will then decide whether or not to apply the Directive to self-employed drivers from 23 March 2009.

The study

The purpose of this study is to assess the impact that Directive 2002/15/EC has had on collective bargaining in this sector in individual EU countries.

This study will examine collective bargaining and the regulation of working time in the road transport sector in individual European countries, looking at issues such as the organisation of working time, breaks, rest periods, working hours, health and safety, and the status of self-employed drivers. It will also look at whether member states have taken advantage of the derogation options, contained in the Directive, in the case of maximum working time and night work.

1. Details of the road transport sector in your country

In terms of NACE classification, the road transport sector, as covered by the working time Directive 2002/15/EC, includes part of 60.21 (i.e. ‘other scheduled passenger land transport’, in particular scheduled and regular bus services where the route covered by the service in question exceeds 50 kilometers), part of 60.23 (i.e. ‘other land passenger transport’, in particular that part of it where the vehicles used for passenger transport are suitable for carrying more than nine persons, including the driver), part of 60.24 (i.e. ‘freight transport by road’, in particular that part of it where the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle, including any trailer, exceeds 3.5 tonnes) and that part of 63.40 (i.e. ‘activities of other transport agencies’) directly related to road haulage/transport of goods by road. Thus, a clear-cut demarcation of the road transport sector in Austria is hard to be drawn.

According to the national statistics provider, Statistik Austria, the whole land transport sector according to NACE 60.2 without 60.22 (i.e. ‘taxi operation’) included, in 2004, 7,984 companies with 81,220 employees and 6,939 self-employed persons. These figures, however, also include tramway and underground, carriage of passengers on regular services on routes shorter than 50 kilometers as well as some regional railway operators (according to NACE 60.21), which do not fall within the scope of this questionnaire and should therefore be deducted. The same holds true of ‘light’ freight transport (according to NACE 60.24) and smaller buses (according to NACE 60.23) which are not suitable for carrying more than nine persons. Unfortunately, the deduction of all these segments of the economy from the aggregate figure for the whole of NACE 60.2 is not possible since separate data for the distinct land transport systems are not available (see Table 1 below).

A further disaggregation of the figures at the four-digit NACE classification level indicates that the lion’s share (i.e. about 52,500) of the sector’s employees are employed in the freight transport sector, whereas the by far lowest rate (i.e. 1.5%) of self-employed people can be found in the scheduled passenger land transport sector (according to NACE 60.21). Disaggregated by firm size in terms of employment, micro-companies with a workforce of less than 10 workers clearly prevail in the road transport sector (according to the whole of NACE 60.2, including taxi operations): In 2004, 9,438 out of 11,446 companies (i.e. 82.5%) were such ‘micro-companies’, with a total aggregate employment (including employees, self-employed people and agency workers) amounting to 26,333, among which were 17,410 dependent employees (see Table 2 below). This implies that the lion’s share of the sector’s around 10,400 self-employed people are most probably solo self-employed people (i.e. individual entrepreneurs) running their businesses mainly as taxi or lorry drivers on their own account.

In this context it is important to note that an indefinite, but allegedly considerable number of illegal foreign lorry drivers are employed by Austrian transport companies, often under unsafe and precarious conditions and illegal contracts of employment (see section 4). Some of these workers may not be covered by official employment statistics.

With respect to the type of employee, the official statistics reveal that the predominant category of worker in the road transport sector is the blue-collar worker, representing 74,751 (i.e. 81.1%) of the sector’s workforce (according to the whole of NACE 60.2) in 2004, whereas only 16.851 people were counted as white-collar workers (the rest were apprentices). The share of female employees amounted to 8.9% and 43.7%, respectively, among blue- and white-collar workers.

Table 1 – Sectoral (according to NACE 60.2) properties in 2004

‘Other land transport’

NACE 60.2

‘Other scheduled passenger land transport’

NACE 60.21

‘Taxi operation’

NACE 60.22***

‘Other land passenger transport’

NACE 60.23

‘Freight transport by road’

NACE 60.24

Number of companies






Aggregate employment*






Female employment*






Aggregate self-employed and assistant family members






Female self-employed and assistant family members






Aggregate employees**






Female employees**






Aggregate white-collar workers






Female white-collar workers






Aggregate blue-collar workers






Female blue-collar workers






Aggregate apprentices






Female apprentices






Aggregate part-time workers






* employees plus self-employed persons and agency workers

** including apprentices

*** Taxi operation is no part of the road transport sector as covered by the Directive 2002/15/EC

Source: Statistik Austria (2006)

Table 2 – Sectoral (according to NACE 60.2) companies by firm size in 2004
  Number of companies Aggregate employment* Aggregate employees**

‘Other land transport’

NACE 60.2




1-9 employees




10-19 employees




20-49 employees




50-249 employees




250 and more empl.




* employees plus self-employed persons and agency workers

** including apprentices

Source: Statistik Austria (2006)

2. Collective bargaining in the road transport sector

The structure of the sector’s collective bargaining system is shaped by the demarcation between the domains of the various parties on both sides of industry. In general, collective agreements are concluded separately for white-collar (who are not covered by the Directive 2002/15/EC and therefore not taken into consideration in this study) and blue-collar workers. The relevant trade union organisations are the white-collar Union of Salaried Employees, Graphical Workers and Journalists (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, Druck, Journalismus, Papier, GPA-DJP) and the blue-collar vida Trade Union (Transport and Services), which is the successor union of the previous sector-related Commerce, Transport and Traffic Workers’ Union (Gewerkschaft Handel, Transport, Verkehr, HTV) and two other blue-collar unions which merged in December 2006. As far as scheduled passenger transport by local or regional bus operators owned by cities and municipalities are concerned, also the Union of the Employees of the Local State (Gewerkschaft der Gemeindebediensteten, GdG) acts as a relevant collective bargaining party vis-à-vis the relevant businesses. However, it remains unclear whether there is any such local or regional bus operator providing services on routes exceeding the relevant threshold of 50 kilometers to be covered by the Directive in question.

Apart from a few collective agreements concluded for several distinct public utilities running their own passenger transport services, separate agreements are also concluded for the subsectors of road transport of goods and of haulage contractors, as the former falls within the domain of the Federal Organisation of Road Transport of Goods (Fachverband für das Güterbeförderungsgewerbe, FGG) and the latter within the domain of the Federal Organisation of Haulage Contractors (Fachverband der Spediteure, FSp). The FSp is of importance in so far as its domain includes also those (allegedly few) lorry drivers employed by the association’s member companies. Moreover, the Federal Organisation of Bus and Coach Operators (Fachverband der Autobusunternehmungen, FAU) organises and represents all the country’s businesses whose main activities include bus operations. This organisation also concludes a nation-wide agreement for its member companies’ blue-collar workers. All these employer organisations are sub-units of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKO), and membership of them is thus obligatory for all businesses belonging to their domain. Collective bargaining coverage is therefore 100%. Since no other parties are entitled to conduct collective bargaining, and the bargaining units are defined in a mutually exclusive way, each party has a de facto monopoly in bargaining with regard to its domain (AT0304202F).

Usually, the sub-sector’s collective agreements are renewed each year.

In general, all sector-related agreements define working time issues (i.e. daily and weekly working hours within a certain reference period, breaks, rest periods and controls and checks on drivers) in accordance with the Austrian working time legislation and thus in line with the Directive 2002/15/EC (see section 3 below).

3. Implementation of the Directive 2002/15/EC in your country


The Directive 2002/15/EC should have been implemented by 23 March 2005. However, the Austrian government – as per agreement with the social partners – decided to await the planned amendment to the Council Regulation (EEC) No 3820/85 before implementing the working time Directive. Thus, the latter was implemented not earlier than on 3 August 2006 when both the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, AZG) and the Act on Rest Periods (Arbeitsruhegesetz, ARG) were amended appropriately. The new regulations took effect retroactively as from 1 July 2006.

In parallel, also the two most relevant collective agreements in the road transport sector (see below) were – in the course of 2006 – adjusted to the new requirements.

Implementation has meant only minor amendments to collective agreements in terms of working hours, reference periods for flexible working time schemes and matters related to night work.

Maximum working time

The AZG grants the sector’s parties to the collective agreements and – if there is no collective agreement – the parties to works agreements the right to derogate from the statutory restrictions. This means that – by way of collective agreements or works agreements – the maximum working week may be extended to 60 hours if the average of 48 hours a week is not exceeded over an extended reference period of 26 weeks. Moreover, the Austrian legislation provides that the maximum working week may be extended to 55 hours by way of collective agreement or – in exceptional cases – works agreement if the working time exceeding 48 hours is classified as periods of availability (i.e. on-call duties).

Currently, the collective agreement for blue-collar workers in the goods transport sector concluded by FGG and the vida Trade Union, which came into effect on 1 January 2007, as well as the collective agreement for blue-collar workers in the bus carriage sector concluded by the FAU and the same union (which allegedly took effect as from 1 January 2007 as well) make use of the provisions outlined above: Accordingly, the reference period for averaging flexible weekly working time schemes is extended to 26 weeks and the average working week is extended to 55 hours in the event of call-on duties of at least 7 hours a week. Both agreements (which are the most important in the sector in question) are presumed to cover an estimated total number of around 50,000 employees.

Night work

With respect to the road transport sector, the AZG defines night work as any work performed between 00.00 and 04.00 a.m. If night work is performed, the maximum working day of 10 hours must not be exceeded. Furthermore, the worker concerned is to be granted additional time off within a two-week period to the same extent as night work was performed, by way of correspondingly extending the daily or weekly rest period. However, the law also provides for the right of the parties to collective agreements or – if there is no collective agreement – the parties to works agreements to derogate from the regulations on night work outlined above.

Again, it is the abovementioned agreements for blue-collar workers in the goods transport and the passenger bus carriage sectors which make use of this possibility. The agreements concerned abolished the previously existing right for appropriate compensation in the event of night work and allow for extending the maximum working day of 10 hours even if night work is performed.

With regard to the Austrian bus and lorry drivers, the implementation of the Directive 2002/15/EC at least indirectly meant a deterioration of their working conditions, since the amendments to the relevant legislation which had (partially) become necessary brought about new scope for the collective bargaining parties to conclude more flexible working time schemes. This outcome of collective bargaining in the wake of the national implementing legislation can be explained by the fact that the vida Trade Union section of road transport is one of the weakest trade unions in Austria with only low density rates.

4. Specific issues


From the employers’ point of view the main problems in the sector are not related to the industrial relations system in a narrow sense but to the legal framework of the freight transport business, in particular in terms of taxes. The FGG complains that, for instance, the Austrian motor-vehicle tax is, it says, three times higher than the average of the old EU 25 and should therefore be considerably reduced. Secondly, the non-wage labour costs in Austria are deemed too high to successfully compete with most freight transport businesses from the new eastern and middle European EU Member States. Against the background of an exacerbating price competition in a single market due to EU enlargement and liberalisation of services, the employer associations call for strictly monitoring the observation of competitive regulations at both national and EU level. This is because domestic road transport firms have increasingly perceived practices of illegal employment and wage dumping among their competitors as well as practices of running transport businesses without legal business licences.

The vida Trade Union (Transport and Services) shares the FGG’s views on the latter point and criticises that fierce competition within an enlarged European Union forces many enterprises to move their businesses to ‘low-wage’ and ‘low-tax’ countries. However, in sharp contrast to the employer organisations, organised labour accuses the majority of domestic road haulage and road freight companies to violate laws. According to Georg Eberl, the secretary of the transport section of the vida Trade Union, unsafe conditions and exploitations of (often foreign) lorry drivers are everyday practice, claiming that it is still commonplace for drivers not to be paid for overtime hours and for employers to withhold their wages for various reasons. Both the union and the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer, AK) emphasise that most lorry drivers are covered by illegal payment schemes in that their pay is related to the number of kilometers travelled instead of being governed by the provisions of the relevant collective agreements (AT0202203F). However, with respect to controls and checks of drivers, the union expects significant improvements over the medium term, when the majority of Austrian vehicles will be fitted with recording equipment used in accordance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) No 3821/85. Such equipment will enable the executive authorities to effectively monitor the observation of legal working hours and rest periods by drivers over the past 28 days.


In principle, both the employer organisations and the unions want self-employed drivers to be partially covered by national implementing legislation. However, this issue has not figured prominently at the social partners’ negotiating agenda.


Trans-border drivers are not concerned by Austrian implementing legislation and the sector-related collective agreements, but of course by the Directive 2002/15/EC and the European agreement concerning the work of crews of vehicles engaged in international road transport (AETR).



5. Views of the national centre

Strikingly, the implementation of the Directive’s provisions by the Austrian legislator has deteriorated rather than improved the road transport employees’ working conditions, though the explicit aim of the Directive is to ‘guarantee the safety and health of the mobile workers’. This is because the legal regulations on working hours and rest periods of road transport workers were more restricted before the implementing legislation came into force. Due to the relative weakness of the union concerned, the additional scope for collective bargaining gained by the amendments to the working time legislation could be used to the benefit of only the employers’ side. The trade union’s position is all the more weakened by the employers’ permanent threat to offshore part of their businesses or move abroad as a whole.

In the face of the union’s weakness and widespread practices of illegal employment, prospects of real improvements in the drivers’ working conditions are mainly focused on the stepwise introduction of appropriate recording equipment (in regard of working hours and rest periods), and, in particular, effective controls.

(Georg Adam, Institute of Industrial Sociology, University of Vienna)

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