May. 14, 2019 A strike by around 650 care workers, employees of the private company, Alternative Futures Group (AFG), has forced the employer to the negotiating table after management initially refused to negotiate with public service union Unison. The workers took strike action in protest at the company's decision to cut the allowance for sleepover shifts. This means cuts of up to GBP 2000 (EUR 2300) a year for some workers. Talks between Unison and the Liverpool-based AFG were due to start on 17 May. Meanwhile cleaners at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow in Essex to the East of London have voted overwhelmingly to strike in protest at plans to outsource the service.
May. 10, 2019 The GPA-djp and vida private sector unions are launching a campaign to end the discrimination against care workers. Current legislation provides for an extra two hours' compensation for night work. However, many employers in the care sector fail to apply this to all care workers by exploiting a loophole in the legislation that specifies that the relevant care has to be provided in care wards. The unions argue that this is completely outdated and that the law needs changing to reflect currently reality. The unions are seeking 500 signatures to launch a citizens' initiative that, once formally accepted, will appear on the national parliament's website and around which the unions will campaign.
May. 10, 2019 Reducing working time has emerged as a key issue for public services union Forsa. As part of another element of the austerity package agreed in 2013, lower and middle-earning civil servants saw their working time increase by 2.5 hours a week without any increase in pay. At the same time higher earners (those on over EUR 65000 a year) took a pay cut. However, that pay cut was restored by January 2018 and so Forsa is now arguing that it is only fair that lower and middle-earning civil servants, mostly women, should return to their pre-crisis working hours. Taking account of the hours increase, the hourly rate of pay for civil servants is still only 93% of the level of 10 years ago.
May. 02, 2019 The Eurofound research agency has published a new report that looks at the rules on rest breaks at work across Europe. These cover both legislation and the kinds of rules included in collective agreements. The report finds considerable variety with different approaches to whether breaks are paid or unpaid and whether or not they are included in working time. The overview includes information on rules for specific categories of workers such as pregnant women, young workers and those employed in arduous occupations. While not a major area of legal dispute, the report highlights some recent court cases which tend to focus on the question of pay. There is a section on the health implications of having or not having proper breaks as well as the impact on performance and productivity.
Apr. 30, 2019 An analysis by the GMB trade union reveals that care workers in the private sector are three times more likely to be on a zero hours contract than those in the public sector. It also finds that employees of private care companies are paid 17% less on average than their public sector counterparts and four in ten leave their job every year. Over 50% per cent of private carers have no relevant social care qualifications, compared with less than 20% in the public sector. The union highlights the underlying problem of underfunding of the sector, an issue which it says is becoming more acute as evidenced by the possible collapse of one of the country's biggest care providers, Four Seasons, which employs 20000 workers.
Apr. 17, 2019 The STAL and STML unions representing firefighters organised a protest in Lisbon on 16 April outside the Interior Ministry. The main concerns for the unions are about government proposals to reform the career structure for firefighters and to reduce retirement benefits. Other issues relate to payments for oncall time, 12-hour shifts and implementation of a pay structure that the two unions negotiated with the ministry. The unions have been frustrated by the government's reluctance to negotiate, delaying and then postponing a meeting due on 2 April.
Apr. 16, 2019 The Marburger Bund (MB) doctors' union organised a warning strike and 5000-strong national demonstration in Frankfurt on 10 April in protest at the failure of the VKA employers' organisation to address the union's key demands on working time. The negotiations cover around 55000 doctors employed in 500 municipal hospitals across the country. MB is calling for a set of clear measures to ensure better working time planning, reduced workloads and more free time. Following the third round of bargaining the union regards the latest employers' offer as just not worth considering. MB is looking for a reform of rules on on-call time, strict procedures on recording working time, two free weekends per month, clear maxima for on-call hours, no full-time work after a period on on-call and additional pay for on-call hours. The union has convened its collective bargaining committee to decide what next steps to take.
Mar. 27, 2019 Unions representing nurses and midwives have been in the Labour Court where hearings continue over a new contract. Both the INMO nurses' and midwives' union and the SIPTU general union have strong objections to the government proposals. The unions point out that the working time arrangements would be too rigid for an overwhelmingly female workforce as would reducing shifts to only four hours or requiring nurses and midwives to work up to 45 km away from their normal workplace.
Mar. 15, 2019 The health conference of the vpod public service union has called for action to tackle the stress, long working hours, involuntary part-time work and low pay in the sector which is part of the persistent discrimination faced by women workers. The union wants to see a revaluation of pay of health and care jobs to recognise the arduousness and increased responsibilities of many occupations. Vpod is also calling for major improvements to work-life balance, reductions in working time, better shift planning, possibilities for retirement from 60 and provision of necessary training. The union says that urgent action is needed to address staff shortages.
Feb. 27, 2019 The FOA public services union has strongly criticised plans by Copenhagen City Council to cut DKK 47 million (EUR 6.3 million) from the cleaning budget in its children and youth administration services. The union says that 450 workers will be affected either with reduced hours (some going from 37 to 21 hours a week) and others facing redundancy. FOA argues that this is effectively increasing the working poor, with many workers facing the prospect of doing two, three or more jobs to make ends meet. The union also argues it will impact on cleaning quality and health and safety.
Feb. 27, 2019 Services unions vida and GPA-djp are pleased with the pay and working time package they have negotiated in the private health and care sector that covers 100000 workers. After five bargaining rounds, the employers agreed to a 3.2% pay increase and a series of measures on working time. These include an extra day of holiday after two years' service, additional payments for covering shifts, part-time work for older workers, recognising that time taken to change clothes at work is working time, new rules on split shifts and more certainty with planning rotas. There will also be an extra EUR 100 a month for trainees and extra benefits for specific employees, including childcare workers.
Feb. 14, 2019 National strike action across the public sector took place on 14-15 February as unions pushed the government to end its austerity measures that have taken a toll on public service workers. Unions in the FESAP federation took action over the two days while the Frente Comum group of unions joined on 15th. The unions have some common demands, particularly the urgent need to end the pay freeze and provide a pay increase for all public service workers. Other demands covered career progression, training and action to tackle precarious employment. EPSU sent solidarity messages.
Feb. 14, 2019 In the latest stage of the trade union campaign against the "slave" law that allows employers to signficantly increase overtime work, the MASZSZ confederation has asked the European Commission to intervene. The confederation believes that the increase on the overtime limit to 400 hours a year and the possibility for compensation for additional hours to be spread over 36 months could be in contravention of the Working Time Directive and it wants the European Commission to investigate.
Feb. 14, 2019 The Fagforbundet public service union is continuing to pursue legal action against the Aleris care company which it believes has major implications for labour rights in Norway. The company is being challenged over using self-employed workers that it calls "consultants" rather than directly employing care staff. The "consultants" have no employment rights and have been forced to work long hours of overtime, including up to 72 hours without a break, for fear of being denied work. They have no sickness or pension benefit or protection against dismissal. Aleris Care is now part of the Ambea group of companies which has renamed the operations Stendi.