30 January 2008: Social Dialogue and Collective Bargaining - Energy sector Austria, Benelux, France, Germany
EPSU Seminar, 30 January 2008
Summary of Follow up Actions
The group decided to send a solidarity letter to Verdi. Verdi is involved in collective bargaining with Vattenfall and was organising a “warn-streik” Friday 1 February 2008. This solidarity letter is now available on the EPSU website.
Companies leaving the employers federation (Tarifflucht) With more companies operating across borders, some companies seek to explore the boundries of what is possible, even though they would not necessarily do this in the mother country. Examples were given of companies who would like to leave the national employers organisation to either have an own agreement or who would like to join another collective agreement (often with lower pay and conditions for the workers concerned). The unions agreed that they would exert pressure on the (mother) companies who would do so jointly. A more formal paper is to be presented at a next meeting,
Outsourcing Outsourcing remains one of the biggest problems for the trade unions in the sector. It was agreed to discuss this further and more in depth at the next meeting. The focus would be on how unions seek to deal with this, the kind of agreements concluded to prevent or cope with it, and what possibly could be done together towards employers. Materials already developed in EPSU would play a guiding role.
Low Pay Participants agreed that the focus here would be on collecting more information. This would concern the legal minimum wage, and the minimum wage in the important collective agreements. It would provide a picture of the lowest pay levels in the sector. This would allow the unions to consider what action would be possible.
Mobility/ Training/ Skills The sector is facing skill shortages especially in technical occupations while at the same time further joblosses might be expected in administrative jobs, or certain jobs which are faced with technological innovations (meter readers e.g.). The participants decided to consider this issue in more depth at the next meeting. A future focus could be on the formulation of joint demands for (additional) training days for workers.
Employment Another area that was suggested for further reflection concerned the employment development and how trade unions are dealing with this in collective agreements assisting to go from work to work. The EcoTec (2007) study for the Commission provides the background to this.
Overview of Negotiations A possibly more permanent feature of further discussions would be to look at ongoing negotiations and their results, and completing/ updating the EPSU overview. A gradual expansion of the issues covered could be envisaged.
Participants exchanged ideas and views on what a possible longer term perspective should be of the discussions. It was suggested to work towards joint issues to raise, with possible joint/ coordinated demands. This is a longer term perspective and more reflection is needed – where do we wish to be in 2 years time, where in 5 years time…
Linked with the above, is that participants realised that demanding more information implied more work for them as they would have to provide the information. The importance of knowing what the information would be used for (the purpose) was underlined
Reflection on the scope of the sector
The group is to cover electricity and gas companies. In some countries like Netherlands, France, Austria, Belgium (?) there is no difference between the electricity and the gas sector with the exception of some company agreements. We should ensure that we also collective information for the gas sector. It was further suggested that we should pay attention to the scope/ of the agreements. What do they cover? Electricity, gas, district heating etc. Of particular concern is possibly the sector of renewables (wind, solar etc.) Are they covered by the energy agreements. (e.g in France windfarms= production are)
Remarks on practical issues
It was agreed that it is preferable if the language of communication is English. Most colleagues can cope with German as well.
Interpretation is needed especially given the subject. It was agreed that participants would be responsible for covering the costs of the interpretation and share the costs between unions (using the same language). Together with EPSU joint applications for projects to be submitted to the European Commission can also be considered.
Regularity of the meetings is seen as important to advance and keep momentum. A next date is set for 22 October 2008
Attendance can be organised in function of the agenda so experts on a particular issue can join in. It is important that participation is continuous to prevent that issues and discussions have to be repeated.