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.
Equality, Working Time
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 SGB trade union confederation and the vpod public services union have called for a general wage increase of between 1.5% and 2.0%. But the vpod also highlights the need to address the fall in real pay in the public services as well as the importance of ensuring higher pay for jobs dominated by women. Meanwhile the federal court has thrown out a challenge to a proposed minimum wage in the Neuenberg Canton, opening the way to implementation of an hourly minimum of CHFr 20 (€17.50).
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
A new report from the health federation of the CCOO confederation covering the period 2012-2016 confirms the union's concerns over a widening gender pay and employment gap in the health sector. The report finds that women tend to have more precarious contracts with many on temporary contracts while they make up the vast majority of part-time workers and both of these contribute to the persistent gender pay gap. The union wants to see equality plans produced in any health institutions that don't yet have them and existing plans updated. Along with the CCOO, the UGT trade union has called on the
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.
A group of 14 trade unions, including the FOA public services union, the BUPL and SL childcare and social worker unions and the cartel of health unions, has written to the government calling on it to take action to address the persistent gender pay gap. The unions identify the problem as one of labour market structure, with female-dominated work, particularly in health and social services, undervalued and paid less than occupations and sectors dominated by men. The unions argue that at the current pace it will take over 110 years to achieve equal pay. They say that, because this is a
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
The European Trade Union Institute has published an updated analysis of the treatment of social issues in the European Semester - the process of economic policy coordination. This reveals, for example, the extent to which the country-specific recommendations address the question of collective bargaining, with the European institutions calling for reforms in many countries, with the accent on decentralisation of bargaining despite the lack of evidence that this produces any economic benefits.
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