Strike, Low pay/minimum wages
(January 2017) The vida private services union is calling for a EUR 1500 minimum wage in collective agreements across the private sector. The union says that over 350000 workers are covered by collective agreements where the minimum wage is below EUR 1500, two thirds of these workers are women. The agreements include some in the private care and health service sectors. Once the EUR 1500 is reached then the next step will the the EUR 1700 target set by the OEGB trade union confederation.
(February 2017) The latest issue of the ETUI's collective bargaining newsletter covers a wide range of sector and general news on pay and conditions. This month there are several articles on minimum wage developments - Austria, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia - as well as the debate at European level. Nurses' pay features in articles from Ireland and the Czech Republic and working time - in terms of shorter hours and gender differences is covered in stories from Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.
(February 2017) The Eurofound research agency has published a new analysis of minimum wage rates across the EU noting the increase in rates, particularly across Eastern Europe. The article confirms, however, that there is still a wide range of rates across the continent, ranging from EUR 1999 in Luxembourg to EUR 238 in Bulgaria. Of the 22 EU countries with statutory minimum wages all have seen an increase in real terms since 2010 with the exception of Greece where the Troika pressured a previous government to cut the rate substantially.
(February 2017) Negotiators in the private manufacturing sector signed a new three-year deal last month. This is seen as a key agreement setting the pace for negotiations in other sectors. In the public services, the FOA union noted in particular the proposals for new funding and rights for workers for training as well as improved parental leave. FOA also underlines the flat-rate, two-crown (EUR 0.3) increase in the minimum hourly pay rates in each of the three years of the agreement. Which will take the minimum to DKK 117.65 (EUR 16.1) by 2019.
(March 2017) After years of campaigning, workers in social care might see some respite from the race to the bottom on contract costs and pay. The government has approved an order in council that requires municipalities to adopt fair and equitable rates for home care. This should end the situation where local authorities were issuing tenders which providers could only meet by cutting costs and for workers this meant either losing their job or seeing a massive cut in pay.
(March 2017) A new report, produced jointly by the European Commission and the International Labour Organisation, shows that European countries with coordinated bargaining systems have managed to prevent the growth of inequalities on the labour market. At the same time the erosion of collective bargaining in other EU member states has led to more low-paid jobs or increasing inequality among the workforce. The report also looks at a range of other inequalities such as in working time, training etc.
(March 2017) Public services union JHL is calling for an extra pay increase for sectors dominated by women. The union chair Päivi Niemi-Laine said:"We need a separate round on top of the general increase. Women-dominated sectors have been kept in check and now we have to ensure that purchasing power remains strong in women-led fields." The union argues that action needs to be taken to address the persistent gender pay gap and that public salaries are being effectively cut by a decision to reduce holiday pay as part of the competitiveness deal negotiated last year.
(March 2017) Unions organising workers in the non-profit social services came together in a major demonstration in Brussels on 21 March. The unions want to see urgent action to tackle major problems facing the sector - poor pay, understaffing and excessive workloads leading to burnout for many workers trying to maintain services in impossible conditions. The unions want to negotiate a new agreement for the sector which addresses pay and working conditions but they also underline the link between quality employment and delivery of quality services. EPSU sent a message of solidarity.
(March 2017) The annual benchmarking report from the European Trade Union Institute provides an overview of latest developments in wages and collective bargaining. It notes a trend towards higher real wages, particularly in central and Eastern Europe, mainly as a result of low inflation. There has also been growth in minimum wages but most are still at a very low level. It also found that the decline in collective bargaining coverage continued and was very pronounced in southern and eastern European countries.
(March 2017 ) The vpod public services union has a special network set up four years ago campaigning for better protection for migrant care workers. The union argues that the federal government is well aware of the level of exploitation of this group of workers but has failed to take any measures to regulate this area of work. Recent press reports have highlighted the situation facing care workers and the lack of legal protection.
(April 2017) Beginning this month the municipal services union Kommunal will be investigating the employment and working conditions of cleaners, looking at their employment status, working hours as well as health and safety problems. The union will carry out a survey as well as making workplace visits to talk to workers and assess how they are affected by what are often seen as the main problems facing the sector - the impact of privatisation, lack of control over work - but also good examples where workers do have more control over working time and other working conditions.