2013 February epsucob@NEWS 03

Europe - Trade unions, employers and labour ministers discuss wages


Representatives of European and national trade union and employer organisations met in Brussels on 1 February. They were taking part in a meeting to discuss wage developments, organised by the European Council’s Employment Committee with support from DG Employment. The main aim of the meeting was discuss wages from the point of view productivity, equality and employment. Both employers and trade unions underlined the autonomy of the social partners at national level in the face of any initiative to establish any formal wage monitoring at European level. It was, however, a useful opportunity for EPSU to intervene to argue strongly against the attacks on collective bargaining in the public sector, in some cases directly supported by the European institutions. Read more at > EPSU (EN)

Portugal - National demonstrations against austerity


The CGTP trade union confederation is organising demonstrations across the country on 16 February in protest at the austerity measures that are taking their toll on both public and private sectors. On 15 March the Frente Comum, bringing together a number of public sector unions, is organising a national demonstration outside the Ministry of Finance to protest against the impact of austerity on public sector workers and public services. Read more on the February demonstrations at > STAL (PT) And on the March demonstration at > STAL (PT)

Austria - Unions agree new deal in health and social services


The GPA-DJP and vida services unions have agreed new pay and conditions covering workers in the private and non-profit (church-run) health and social services sector. This is the first time that these groups of workers have been covered by the same negotiations although not all elements of the deal were agreed the church employers. There is an increase of 2.75% on minimum rates from 1 February with other pay rates rising by 2.7% (inflation is currently running at 2.8%). Other elements of the deal include 12 months’ care leave, the recognition of earlier periods of non-specialised employment experience and the right to eight hours of paid training. Read more at > vida (DE)

France - Union takes strike action at GDF-Suez


Members of the CGT employed by six gas sector subsidiaries of GDF Suez have been taking strike action since 4 February. Their main demands include a shift in company policy away from a narrow financial focus on increased dividends for shareholders and a call to reopen pay negotiations. The union also wants to see a coherent policy for the group on the basis of providing security of energy supply as well as employment. Finally, the CGT is calling for an end to restructuring, site closures, job cuts and outsourcing. Read more at > FNME-CGT (FR)

Finland - Politicians and employers talk of pay cuts


Centre-right President Niinistö and leaders of national employer organisations have been arguing for the need for pay cuts or increases in working time without compensation. Niinistö raised the issue in his new year message and called for a cut in his own salary. Employers have joined the debate with references to the long term trend to lower labour costs in Germany. Read more at > Nordic Labour Journal (EN)

Estonia - Court rules that workers were underpaid in Finland


The Estonian Supreme Court has ruled that two Estonian workers employed in Finland should have benefited from local pay and conditions. The two were paid only €8 an hour when local rates were between €10.30 and €11.30. Their employers also refused to pay overtime rates. The ruling is expected to have major implications for other Estonians who are working in Finland. Read more at > YLE news website (EN)

France - Minister refuses to budge on pay and waiting day


Public service trade unions have taken action in recent weeks in the lead up to a meeting with the public services minister on 7 February over a range of issues related to pay and conditions. Although the Minister, Marylise Lebranchu, made positive moves on some issues the unions were disappointed that she refused to budge on two key points. The government is insisting on another pay freeze this year while also maintaining the waiting day that applies in cases of sickness absence. Read joint union statement at > CGT Services Publics (FR) And list of key demands at > CGT Services Public (FR)

Netherlands - Unions put forward key demands in mental health sector


The four unions negotiating for employees in the mental health sector, FNV Abvakabo, CNV Publieke Zaak, NU’91 and FBZ, have put forward their main demands to the GGZ employers’ organisation. The collective agreement expired on 1 January 2013 and the unions are looking for an overall pay bill increase of 3% with 2.5% specifically for wages. The unions underline the urgent need to tackle recruitment challenges and make the sector more attractive to younger workers while also trying to retain older staff. This includes initiatives to reduce excessive workloads and stress. Read more at > FNV Abvakabo (NL)

Europe - More collective bargaining news from across Europe


The January issue of the ETUI’s collective bargaining newsletter includes more than 50 articles covering negotiating and related developments in more than 20 countries. There news from all sectors, including the public services, with reports, for example on the health and energy sectors in Estonia, the health sector in the UK and on public procurement in Ireland and Slovakia. Read more at > ETUI

UK - Members back changes to health agreement


Members of UNISON in England have given their support to changes to "Agenda for Change", the main national agreement covering the pay and conditions of workers in the National Health Service (NHS). UNISON argues that the changes will be important in maintaining a national agreement and preventing the break away of more NHS Trusts looking for local or regional pay arrangements. The changes will mean that progression up the pay scale will depend on individuals’ skills, competences and performance. There will also be more pay flexibility for senior staff. Read more at > UNISON

Sweden - Union welcomes minister’s commitment on equal pay


Local government union Vision has welcomed the commitment of the new equalities minister to tackle the gender pay gap and particularly the structural problem of lower pay in sectors where women make up the majority of the workforce. This is an issue of particular importance for Vision, recognising the challenge of having to change some fundamental values in society in order to close the gap, a gap which also has an impact on the pay of men working in sectors dominated by women. Read more at > Vision (SE)

UK - Municipality agrees to pay living wage


Barking and Dagenham local authority in east London has agreed to pay a minimum living wage of £9.00 (€10.50) an hour to all workers - making the annual minimum £16425 (€19100). The £9.00 rate is in fact 45p (€0.52) more than the official living wage rate calculated by the Greater London Authority. It will apply to all directly employed workers as well as agency staff working for the council. Read more at > GMB

Germany - Members to vote over EON pay deal


Ver.di is recommending acceptance of a pay offer covering the 30000 employees of the EON energy company. If accepted, salaries will increase by 2.8%, backdated to 1 January 2013 and there will be a lump sum payment of €300 in March. The agreement will run for 13 months and ver.di calculates this is worth 3.1% overall. It was also agreed that apprentices qualifying during 2014 will be taken on by their employers for at least 12 months. Read more at > ver.di (DE)

Spain - Union reports reveal failure of labour reforms


Both the UGT and CCOO trade union confederations have produced reports revealing the failure of the government’s labour law reforms over the past year. The UGT points out that employment fell by 822000 in 2012 and, in fact, fell more sharply in 2012 than in 2009 in the depth of the crisis. The confederation argues that there is an urgent need to boost economic activity not reform labour law. The CCOO assessment attacks the reforms to collective bargaining and employment protection legislation which it says have created more conflict and disputes. Read more at > UGT (ES) And at > CCOO (ES)

Spain - Unions mobilise over jobs and services in justice ministry


The FSC-CCOO, FSP-UGT and the other unions in the Ministry of Justice have called for demonstrations on 20 February against the Ministry’s plans for cuts in jobs and other measures that will limit access to justice for many citizens. The unions have attacked plans to privatise parts of the service with a threat to 3500 jobs and for the failure of the Ministry to negotiate with the unions. Read more at > FSC-CCOO (ES)

Greece - General strike call for 20 February


The ADEDY and GSEE public and private sector trade union confederations have called a general strike for 20 February in protest at the continuing pressure for cuts coming from the Troika of European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Civil servants are the target of next round of cuts with the Troika wanting to see 25000 dismissed or transferred to other areas. Trade unions have also reacted angrily to the government’s actions to prevent transport workers from taking strike action and the GENOP energy union took 24-hour strike action on 31 January in protest at the attack on the right to strike. Further action against the cuts was planned by refuse collection workers on 14-15 February. Read more at > ADEDY (GR) And at > ekathimerini news website (EN) And on the GENOP strike at > GENOP (GR) And on the waste workers at > Greek report news website (EN)

Germany - Unions aim for 6.5% increase in regional government


Ver.di and other public sector unions have submitted a demand for a 6.5% pay increase for the 800000 employees and civil servants working for regional government. A guaranteed job for qualified apprentices is also part of the package. So far the employers have yet to put forward their proposals. Read more at > ver.di (DE)

Ireland - Government promises end to cuts


The government has said that current proposals for cuts in the public sector pay bill will be the last call on public sector workers. Negotiations are underway for an extension of the "Croke Park" national agreement that dates from 2010. The government has threatened to impose €1 billion in cuts if a deal isn’t reached. Unions are still waiting for some of the details of the proposals but have already rejected a five-hour increase in weekly working hours. They say that they want to see details of the financial impact of any increase in working time. In the meantime over 110000 people joined demonstrations around the country in protest at the excessive burden placed on Irish people as a result of the collapse of Irish banks. Read more on Croke Park at > Impact