The government is going ahead with proposals for new working time legislation despite widespread criticism from the trade unions and even doubts expressed by employer organisations. The government wants to allow more flexibility in working time, including longer night and shift work and more local agreements on working time. The unions are worried that this is all about more worker flexibility and are concerned about the lack of provisions to ensure workers are protected. The unions also point out that this is a missed opportunity to tackle the spread of precarious work.
Negotiating and campaigning on working time
After pay, working time is core collective bargaining issue but is also an important area of employment regulated by national and European legislation. EPSU has been very active in defending and calling for proper implementation of the Working Time Directive and is involved in current debates on working time. The why and how of working time reduction is a guide produced for EPSU by the European Trade Union Institute and examines long-term trends in working time, the arguments for reducing it and examples of how this has been achieved.
The trade union-linked WSI research organisation says that the latest figures indicate 37.7 hours as the average for the collectively agreed working week, with a higher average in the East (38.7) compared to the West (37.6). Across industries the working week varies from 34 to 40 hours with around a fifth of all workers covered by a collective agreement on a 35-hour week. The WSI notes that after a wave of agreements on shorter working hours in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been very little change. In the early 2000s a small number of agreements, including the public sector, experienced an
The GPA-djp private services union is campaigning to defend workers' rights on working time and against pressure from employers for more flexibility in working time legislation and a move to a 12-hour maximum working day. The union points out that Austrian workers already have a 41.5-hour working week on average, among the highest in Europe, and often have to work overtime at short notice. The GPA-djp also highlights the evidence of increased health and safety risks once the working day goes over nine hours.
Members of the FNV trade union at the Kwadrant care company have made some progress on their demands for action on jobs and overwork (see epsucob@NEWS no.15). In an initial meeting with management the workers have at least been given a commitment that travel time between clients will be fully paid working time. They will have to wait until 1 October to find out if the company will respond to their key demand not to cut jobs and to tackle the heavy workloads faced by many carers. The union has organised a petition among workers to highlight the problems they face.
On 12 September, service union ver.di organised a nationwide action by healthworkers to highlight the massive problem of understaffing in the sector. Staff were asked to ensure that they followed precisely the rules for disinfecting their hands before dealing with each new patient. Ver.di selected this as one example of the many tasks that workers simply don't have time to do properly because of the pressure of work. The union points out that workers are often under pressure to make decisions about which jobs they need to do, leading to stress and even sickness. This is the latest step in ver
In the run-up to negotiating a new collective agreement covering 80000 workers in the childcare sector, the FNV trade union has published the results of a survey that reveal excessive flexibility in working hours and too many fixed-term contracts as major issues for childcare workers. The union argues that many workers have so few set hours that they can be called on at short notice to work additional hours, creating uncertainty and stress. With the increasing demand for workers in the sector the FNV argues that these issues need to be addressed if more qualified workers are to be recruited.
The three main public service trade unions in the health sector - Fp Cgil, Cisl Fp and Uil Fpl - took part in the first round of negotiations with the ARAN employers' organisation over renewing the collective agreement covering 550000 healthworkers. As well as ensuring that the basic pay agreement provides for the average €85 a month increase foreseen across the public sector, the unions are particularly concerned to address issues around work organisation and working time. They also emphasise that after eight years without any negotiations, there have been many changes in the sector in terms
Member of the services union ver.di working in several hospitals across the country took strike action on 19 September as part of the union's campaign on safe staffing levels and reducing workloads. EPSU general secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan sent a message of support, underlining the importance of protecting the well-being of both health workers and patients by taking urgent action to reduce staff shortages in the sector estimated at over 160000, including over 70000 frontline care workers.
The main public sector unions in the CCOO and UGT confederations are calling on the government to improve its pay offer for the next three years. The current offer provides a guarantee for a 5.34% increase (1.5% in 2018, 1.75% in 2019 and 2.0% in 2020). However, this could reach 8% overall if target growth in economic output (GDP) is reached, along with a further target for deficit reduction. The unions want to see guaranteed increases that would begin to make up for the significant loss of purchasing power of public sector workers. The unions also want to see progress on working hours and an
Following votes across all the public sector unions, a majority (14), accounting for 80% by membership supported the new agreement on pay and conditions with three voting against. The three-year deal includes six pay increases (two targeted at the lower paid only) and will mean that the majority of public sector workers (73%) will see an overall increase of 7% by the end of the agreement. There is a range of other conditions that have been confirmed as part of the deal including the retention of outsourcing protections, the option to negotiate on returning to a shorter working week and
The two groups of public sector unions organised in the Frente Comum and FESAP federations have agreed their main collective bargaining demands for 2018. There are several common issues with unions calling for measures to tackle precarious employment, to unblock opportunities for career progression and confirm a 35-hour week for all public sector workers. The unions want to see a pay rise in 2018 that will begin to compensate workers for the loss of purchasing power since 2009, with the Frente Comum calling for at least 4% while the FESAP demand is for at least 2.5%. The federations also want
A national strike in local government and municipal companies has been called for 27 October by the Frente Comum group of unions, including the STAL local government union. The strike is in support of improved pay and conditions with unions calling for a 4% pay rise (minimum 60 EUR a month) to start to compensate for the pay freeze since 2009. The unions also want to see the 35-hour week guaranteed for all workers. Earlier in the month unions organising in the ASAE food inspection agency took strike action over career development, working time, pensions and a range of other issues.
The JHL public services union says that it will aim for a flat-rate rather than a percentage pay rise in the upcoming bargaining round as a step towards closing the pay gap between the low and high paid. Another priority for the union is more control for workers over working time and shift work, seen as crucial to improve well-being at work. JHL will also be looking at initiatives to address the cut in holiday bonus in the public sector and action on zero-hours contracts.
A new survey published by public services union Unison exposes the pressure faced by home care workers and their precarious working conditions.Three-quarters (75%) of care workers said they had too little time to provide proper care because they are too rushed, often because employers pressure them to fit in an excessive number of visits.The report also highlights the job insecurity faced by home care workers with more than half (52%) on zero hours contracts, and more than three in five (63%) not getting paid for the time it takes to travel between care visits.
The ver.di services union organised further strike action among health workers on 10 and 11 October as a further step in its campaign to deal with massive staffing shortages across the sector. The union is looking to negotiate agreements to tackle overwork, excessive overtime and workers being called out at short notice to fill staffing gaps. Ver.di wants to see all workers take their proper breaks and ultimately the aim is for national legislation to set minimum staffing levels.