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Highlights, 19 Apr 2011

  • 19 Apr 2011
    Romania: National deadlock over collective agreement

    Hopes in Romania that a new four-year national collective agreement would take effect from January 2011 have been dashed. Only four of the 13 national employers’ confederations signed the new agreement on 15 December 2010, meaning that it cannot be registered at the Labour Ministry, and thus cannot be put into practice. Some of the employers’ opposition stems from the government’s intention to start public debates over amending the Social Dialogue Code and the Labour Code.

  • 19 Apr 2011
    Bulgaria: Overdue wages are paid after inspectors’ visits

    Companies have begun paying their workers’ overdue wages, after Bulgarian labour inspectors found that 72 employers owed workers more than BGN 19 million. The inspectors, who began a cross-sector campaign in June 2010 to monitor companies’ compliance with labour law, found 15,000 violations. These included non-payment of wages, late payment or wages below the agreed minimum. The inspectors also ensured employees had contracts and that working times were respected.

  • 19 Apr 2011
    Luxembourg: Social dialogue under pressure

    Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is encouraging unions and employers to get together again with the government for talks, after the failure of the 2010 tripartite spring negotiations. This failure to achieve consensus led to tensions within the government and huge demonstrations. The automatic indexation of salaries was the most contentious issue, and led to bipartite agreements with unions and employers which have, in turn, created further tensions.

  • 14 Apr 2011
    Sweden: Joint Investigations may break standstill on Employment Act

    Sweden’s Employment Protection Act has divided social partners, politicians and experts for a long time. The social partners strongly disagree on how the law affects the structure of the labour market, which caused the negotiations on a new agreement to collapse in 2009. However, in early 2011, two reviews of the Act were initiated by Sweden’s major social partners. If consensus is reached, the structural conditions of bargaining rounds, and the political debate, may change.

  • 14 Apr 2011
    France: French law to increase number of women directors

    The number of women company directors is expected to go up in France after its parliament passed a law on 13 January 2011 setting quotas for the gender balance of company boards. Within the next three years, 20% of a company’s board members must be women, rising to 40% within the following six years. This applies to companies quoted on the stock exchange (CAC 40), or those with more than 500 employees, with a turnover exceeding €50 million over the previous three years.

  • 14 Apr 2011
    Germany: Survey results on firms’ employment relations

    On 1 February 2011, the Federal Employment Agency released figures showing that in January there were 270,000 fewer people registered as unemployed compared with figures for the January 2010. Employers have welcomed these figures, but unions have criticised the creation of insecure jobs, such as fixed-term positions or temporary agency work. However, another survey shows many firms are introducing measures that foster flexible and stable employment relations.

  • 29 Mar 2011
    France: Social partners set social agenda for 2011

    Agreements on harassment and violence at work, and on pension reform have been signed in France in the past 12 months. The social partners are now preparing to launch their work programme for 2011, which sets out more than 11 topics they hope to address. However, although the agenda seems full, the social partners’ objectives remain vague. Negotiations could also be hampered by the 2012 French presidential elections and by a planned evaluation of union representativeness.

  • 29 Mar 2011
    Czech Republic: Nurses divided over doctors’ resignation campaign

    The resignation campaign by hospital doctors in the Czech Republic has led to an offer of cash for hospitals by the government. However, the health minister will not guarantee the money will be spent only on doctors’ pay, and the country’s 80,000 hospital nurses are divided over the doctors’ action. Some support the campaign, arguing that there is a need for health care reform and to retain doctors. However, others believe nurses should also share in any wage increases.

  • 29 Mar 2011
    Latvia: Social partners discuss the national budget

    Social partners and international lenders met in 2010 to decide Latvia’s national budget for 2011. The budget was adopted under difficult circumstances – shortly after parliamentary elections and the formation of a new cabinet. It also had to set out severe austerity measures and scrupulously obey the recommendations of the international lenders. However, it satisfied neither social partners nor lenders, although the Latvian people accepted it without objection.

  • 25 Mar 2011
    EU Level: Health social partners agree recruitment and retention framework

    The EU-level social partners in hospitals and healthcare, HOSPEEM and EPSU agreed, in December 2010, a framework of actions on recruitment and retention of staff. These are key issues in this sector, with demographic ageing and tight budgets compounding the problems of recruiting skilled employees for difficult working conditions on relatively low pay. The social partners’ formal dialogue began only in 2006, but has developed rapidly, leading to several joint texts.

  • 25 Mar 2011
    Norway: Boycott forces company to sign collective agreement

    The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions used strike action and a boycott to force a company selling workwear to sign a collective bargaining agreement in January 2011. The unions initially applied to conclude a collective agreement with the company in 2008. Its refusal led the unions to decide on collective action. This marked the start of continuous conflict between the company and the unions, which has been subject to court rulings on two occasions.

  • 25 Mar 2011
    Germany: Works council elections 2010 – survey results

    On 1 February 2011, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research published a study on works council elections at over 1,000 companies across Germany in 2010. On average, 79% of employees vote in such elections; women account for 29% of works council members; and the proportion of works council members who are also union members ranges between 49% and 55%. The share of union members on works councils declines as the proportion of women and high-skilled workers rises.

  • 15 Mar 2011
    Germany: 2010 bargaining round examined

    The latest annual report on collective bargaining in Germany from the Institute for Economic and Social Research reviewed agreements concluded in 2010 affecting some 8.8 million employees. Another 7.5 million received pay increases in 2010 agreed in previous years. The average increase in collectively agreed earnings was 1.8% in 2010 compared with 2.6% in 2009. Pay increases in 2010 varied between sectors. Actual gross earnings increased 2.2% in 2010 compared with 2009.

  • 15 Mar 2011
    Norway: Board refuses to extend collective agreements on wage dumping

    In December 2010, the Norwegian Tariff Board decided not to allow the extension of two of the four collective agreements presently in general application in sectors of the Norwegian economy. The board argued that the general application resolutions in these agreements have served their purpose, and that there is no longer a need for them. The decision was made against the advice of the Tariff Board representative from the employee side, and has been criticised by trade unions.

  • 15 Mar 2011
    Ireland: Court ratifies construction industry pay cut

    A 7.5% pay cut for workers in the construction industry was ratified by Ireland’s Labour Court in January 2011 and is to apply from 4 February 2011. This came after a recommendation, in June 2010, by a separate division of the court that employers and unions should voluntarily reduce their legally-binding minimum pay rates in the Registered Employment Agreement by this amount. This was agreed by the social partners. Stronger compliance rules are also to be brought in.

  • 10 Mar 2011
    United Kingdom: Shared parental leave plans announced

    From April 2011, fathers in the UK will be able to take additional paternity leave if the mother of their child returns to work before using her full maternity leave entitlement. In January 2011, the British government announced plans to go further and allow both parents to take leave at the same time. The move will apply in cases of adoption as well as the birth of a child. The proposals have received a broadly positive reaction from the main employer and trade union organisations.

  • 10 Mar 2011
    EU Level: New sectoral social dialogue committee for central government administrations

    A new sectoral social dialogue committee for central government administrations was set up in December 2010. Within the context of this new committee, employee and employer representatives from across the European Union will have the opportunity to deliver opinions, statements and documents to the European Commission on areas of European social and employment policy that may have consequences for all central government administrations at national level.

  • 10 Mar 2011
    Malta: Air Malta restructuring

    Losses registered by Air Malta in recent years have brought it to the brink of bankruptcy and the government has come up with a rescue plan that has to be executed within parameters set by the European Commission. The four trade unions representing Air Malta employees, disappointed at the failure of the company to become viable following the implementation of austerity measures, have expressed concern at the possibility of redundancies forming part of the restructuring exercise.

  • 08 Mar 2011
    Romania: New legislative initiative to amend Labour Code

    Faced with the need to reform labour relations in order to stimulate economic growth in the wake of the economic crisis, the Romanian government has put forward a bill to further amend the Labour Code. The amendments, which have been criticised by the social partners, seek to extend the probation period of new employees, the conditions of fixed-term employment contracts, temporary agency contracts, notice periods, working time flexibility and collective dismissals.

  • 08 Mar 2011
    Denmark: Economic crisis weighs on 2011 wage bargaining round

    As social partners begin a new bargaining round in 2011, the repercussions of the economic crisis still hamper collective bargaining in Denmark, as does a formula for public sector pay agreed in 2008 which encouraged wage rises to outstrip those in the private sector. New strategies to resolve these problems are being explored but there is little economic room for manoeuvre and for the first time in decades it may be difficult to safeguard public employees’ real wages.

  • 08 Mar 2011
    EU Level: GDF Suez launches international social dialogue

    The French energy and services group GDF Suez (214,000 employees) has signed an international framework agreement with three global unions. The three-year agreement will provide a framework for those involved to promote global social dialogue and to negotiate at this level on topics such as training, heath and safety, and, more innovatively, restructuring and climate change. It also shows the company’s complete support for many major international standards.