Collective bargaining – trends and developments
Collective bargaining is a core activity of trade unions and EPSU’s affiliates negotiate with public service employers at every level. This can range from national public-sector wide bargaining to sector and local negotiations with public sector employers but also private and non-profit providers of public services. EPSU works with the European Trade Union Confederation to try to improve collective bargaining rights for all workers across Europe. We also act as a European information point so that EPSU affiliates are aware of trends in public service negotiations. EPSU’s collective bargaining newsletter provides regular updates on developments across Europe and this briefing gives an overview of the state of play in the main agreements in each country.
EPSU was part of an ETUC delegation that met with employers and representatives of the European Council, Commission, Central Bank and Eurogroup in the biannual Macroeconomic Dialogue on 23 May. ETUC general secretary, Luca Visentini, pointed out that wage developments in the last quarter of 2021 had been the lowest for several years, that the wage share in the economy was declining and that there was no evidence that pay increases had pushed inflation higher. EPSU general secretary, Jan Willem Goudriaan, underlined the need for action to address low pay and precarious work in health and
The three trade union confederations ACV/CSC, ABVV/FGTB and ACLVB/CGSLB are building for their national demonstration on 20 June. This is part of the trade union movement’s campaign to put pressure on the government to do more to protect workers against inflation and to reform the wage law that imposes restrictions on the scope to negotiate pay rises in the biennial, cross-sector collective bargaining. Petitioning by the unions has already paid off as it has given them the opportunity to take part in a parliamentary hearing on 29 June.
Several unions, including Kommunal, Vision, ASSR and Vårdförbundet, have welcomed the resolution of a dispute with Church of Sweden over a transition agreement. The dispute, which involved some targeted industrial action, meant that the pay rise and general collective agreement for 2022-23 were postponed but are now being implemented as the unions finalise the details of the agreement covering job transitions with important provisions on careers and training.
The public service federations within the CCOO confederation have denounced the lack of negotiation of the general state budgets for 2022. They have also criticised the 2% increase imposed on public service workers for 2022 as completely insufficient. The federations have called for negotiations to start on a new multi-year salary agreement that guarantees the maintenance of purchasing power. The last three-year agreement (2018-2020) led to some progress towards restoring pay after the cuts and freezes of the austerity years. Along with pay the unions want to see other urgent measures
The International Labour Organisation has published a report that shows that the higher the coverage of employees by collective agreements, the lower the wage differences are. Social Dialogue Report 2022: Collective bargaining for an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery is based on a review of collective agreements and practices in 80 countries and the legal and regulatory frameworks in 125 countries. It also provides evidence that collective bargaining can contribute to narrowing the gender pay gap with over half (59 per cent) the agreements reviewed in the study reflecting a joint
On 20 April, the STAL local government union and other public service unions in the Frente Comum delivered their common pay claim to the government with a central demand of a €90 pay increase. Highlighting the current increase in inflation the unions underlined how crucial it was to protect workers’ purchasing power and begin to restore the 15% fall in real pay since 2009. The unions have a range of other long-standing demands relating to the pay structure and career development. Meanwhile the SINTAP public service union met with the government and also focused on the loss of purchasing power
The three trade union confederations – ACV/CSC, ABVV/FGTB, and ACLVB/CGLSB are continuing their campaigns around pay and their calls to reform the law on salaries that imposes limits on the pay increases that trade unions can negotiate. The confederations are highlighting the impact of surging inflation on workers and are putting pressure on the employers and government to address the problem, deliver fair pay and revise the law that sets the wage norm. A series of actions were organised around the country on 22 April and a national demonstration is planned for 20 June.
The Economic Policy Institute in the US has just published research that reveals the impact of declining union density and collective bargaining on wages. It finds, for example, that falling union membership translates to a loss of $1.56 (€1.47) per hour worked for the average worker, the equivalent of $3,250 (€3,070) for a full-time, full-year worker. Meanwhile, the erosion of collective bargaining lowered the median hourly wage also by $1.56 (€1.47), a 7.9% decline (0.2% annually), from 1979 to 2017. An analysis of wage distribution found that declining unionisation had widened inequality
EPSU and industriAll Europe have sent a joint letter to the management of the AB Achema factory in Lithuania protesting at its anti-union activity and failure to resolve a dispute over pay and collective bargaining.
The HSSMS-MT nurses’ union reports that public sector unions are considering industrial action in response to the government’s proposal to increase pay by only 2% from 1 April. The latest negotiations, involving 11 public sector unions, took place on 8 April and the union negotiating committee unanimously rejected the government’s offer and continued to insist on a 4% base increase from 1 April and the resumption of negotiations at the end of May on a base increase in the second part of the year, depending on the evolution of inflation, the movement of other wages in the country and the
The HSSMS-MT health union reports that the latest round of collective bargaining left public sector trade unions disappointed as the government failed to consider their call for a 4% increase in basic pay in the light of increasing inflation and particularly rising energy prices. The government said that a 2% pay increase from 1 April was all that was possible and that any further increases would have to be discussed later in the year. However, no further negotiations were timetabled. The unions said that they would report back to their members and consider the next steps.