Collective Bargaining and Social Dialogue
Low pay...equal pay...lifelong learning...performance-related pay...outsourcing
EPSU Conference 20-21 October 2004
In a packed two-day agenda, EPSU affiliates discussed a range of key collective bargaining issues including low pay, equal pay and lifelong learning. There was also a session examining the threat posed to collective bargaining by outsourcing.
Two ETUC speakers began the conference presenting overviews of recent developments in the intersectoral social dialogue and collective bargaining.
In a lively debate on low pay speakers from Norway, Germany and the UK outlined the kinds of initiatives their unions had taken to tackle low pay and a researcher from the European Trade Union Institute focused on the particular challenges facing trade unions in the new member states.
Survey evidence from EPSU affiliates on equal pay and lifelong learning covered the latest developments and underlined the urgent need for unions to continue to push their demands in these areas.
Performance-related pay (PRP) has spread to many areas of the public services and a series of working groups discussed the issues raised by PRP and whether they could be tackled at a European level.
The final session brought together the key themes of the conference and set out how EPSU would continue to work on these over the next few years.
Stress, telework and working time - the intersectoral social dialogue
Longer hours and concession bargaining - the challenges for a co-ordinated collective bargaining policy
Bargaining in the public services - draft EPSU annual report on collective bargaining and social dialogue
Low pay in the public services
Equal pay and lifelong learning
EPSU initiatives - pay and conditions database, epsucob@ network and epsucob@NEWS
Outsourcing - the threat to collective bargaining
EPSU and collective bargaining - the next five years
Maria Helena Andre, ETUC deputy general secretary
ETUC deputy general secretary Maria Helena Andre kicked off the third EPSU collective bargaining conference with a briefing on the intersectoral social dialogue. She began by stressing that social dialogue must have a positive impact at national level and there was an urgent need to evaluate the process properly.
Maria Helena also pointed out that the language challenge had still to be met. Social dialogue documents had to be clear and straightforward if the social partners were going to ensure the implementation of measures in their respective countries.
In one sense, she thought that the intersectoral social dialogue had gone too far too fast. New issues were already being discussed before people were clear about the meaning of framework agreements, before earlier initiatives had been properly evaluated and before there had been a full debate about what mechanisms could be used in the event of problems and conflicts in the implementation of agreements.
Maria Helena outlined recent progress with the signing of the agreement on stress. She felt that this engages national organisations, asking for commitments on specific initiatives and in her view it is a step forward from the telework agreement.
The news on working time was bleak, with Maria Helena making clear that the latest proposals were “totally unacceptable” to the unions.
She finished off with a reference to the new Member States and the urgent need for the ETUC and industry federations to work together to support their affiliates there and help support and establish the organisations and structures needed for the social dialogue to work.
- ETUC plan of action on working time directive (English), October 2004
- ETUC report on implementation of framework agreement on telework, June 2004 (English and French)
Ronald Janssen, ETUC adviser
There are tough times ahead for trade union negotiators according to ETUC collective bargaining expert Ronald Janssen. Examples of concession bargaining, mainly from Germany, had been snatched up by the media and suddenly employers around Europe were talking about longer working hours.
In fact, the first push for longer working hours had come in the Germany public sector where regional governments had unilaterally increased weekly hours for civil servants. However, the focus was now on specific deals involving Siemens and Daimler-Chrysler.
Ronald pointed out that these deals were not one-sided and involved important guarantees for workers in terms of job security. More importantly stressed that at a macroeconomic level the push for longer hours was illogical and that any advantage an individual firm tried to gain by this initiative would soon be lost as other employers followed suit and that overall the impact would mean a fall in domestic demand.
In a general assessment of the bargaining round the ETUC/ETUI survey of national federations identified a slowly declining trend in wage increases from 4.5% in 2001 to 3% in 2004. It also found that total wage increases were below collectively bargaining increases in some countries probably because of the effect of part of the labour market not covered by collective bargaining.
During the discussion it was pointed out that over the period 2001-2004 pay increases in the public sector had been higher than the private sector in nine out of 14 countries where figures were available. The impact of the Stability and Growth Pact was also noted in that the public sector tended to do less well in relation to the private sector in Eurozone countries.
- Recent ETUI collective bargaining newsletters on delocalisation and concession bargaining (English):
Richard Pond, EPSU
A draft of EPSU’s first annual report on collective bargaining and social dialogue was presented to the conference for comment and discussion. As it is the first time EPSU has produced such a document it was considered appropriate to include a brief review of developments over the last couple of years so that delegates and affiliates could get a clearer idea of progress in these two key areas.
The report covers EPSU initiatives on collective bargaining, pay increases in the public services 2001-2004, strikes and other action, prospects for 2005, developments in the social dialogue in electricity, local government, national administration and hospitals, progress with European works councils.
In the general discussion on collective bargaining delegates highlighted some of the key developments in their respective countries and sectors:
UK - major progress in health service pay and conditions, including equality and lifelong learning in Agenda for Change agreement
Spain - some advances on pensions and working conditions but continuing problem of pay increases based on forecast inflation which turns out to be an underestimate
Netherlands - breakdown in negotiations with government and range of strikes planned by public and private sector unions over government attacks on pensions and other benefits
Italy -challenge for negotiators in maintaining real wages - threat of outsourcing
UK - civil service facing 100,000 job cuts plus increased casualisation
Germany - new, non-discriminatory pay system being negotiated, no concessions on working hours
Portugal - difficult bargaining with government, unions hoping for 5% for 2005, faced with pension reform and increase in contribution years
- Collective bargaining and social dialogue 2002-2004, draft EPSU annual report (English only)
- Summary - Collective bargaining and social dialogue 2002-2004, draft EPSU annual report (English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish)
Richard Pond (EPSU), Herbert Beck (ver.di, Germany), Jan Helge Gulbrandsen (Fagforbundet, Norway), Bela Galgoczi (European Trade Union Institute), Hugh Lanning (PCS, UK)
In this discussion speakers and delegates exchanges experiences about how they are tackling the challenge of low pay.
In his introduction Richard Pond pointed out that a number of factors, including higher levels of unionisation and fairer pay systems meant that overall workers were less likely to be low paid in the public services. This did not mean, however, that there weren’t serious problems to address.
Herbect Beck explained that privatisation and weakening of collective bargaining arrangements in some areas of the public sector, particularly healthcare, had increased the extent of low pay. Ver.di was now pushing for a statutory minimum wage to help resolve this problem.
In Norway’s municipal sector, unions had negotiated flat-rate pay increases which benefit the low paid, the vast majority of whom are women workers. Jan Helge Gulbrandsen explained that his union was looking at a system of indexing pay increases for low paid workers that would provide a long-term response to the issue.
Bela Galgozci provided an overview of developments in the new Member States where in recent years higher growth, productivity and inflation had been factors in much higher pay increases across many sectors. However, more recent evidence suggested that pay for public service workers was already coming under pressure as governments adjusted their economic policies in preparation for joining the Euro.
Hugh Lanning of the PCS civil service union in the UK explained that his union’s strategy on low pay was closely linked to initiatives on equal pay. More broadly he pointed to the successful introduction of the national minimum wage in the UK and the impact that this had had on pushing up the lowest pay rates in many collective agreements.
- Introductory presentation (English)
- Low pay in Germany
- Trends in new member states (English)
Jane Pillinger, independent researcher
Jane Pillinger started by presenting the latest findings of the EPSU/PSI survey of equal pay which covered both collective bargaining and progress on equal pay legislation around Europe.
Although some examples of good practice were uncovered along with interesting legal developments, the latest figures showed that there was still a long way to go to achieve equal pay. More worryingly there was also evidence that the pay gap had widened in some countries in recent years.
The EPSU survey of lifelong learning had not produced a very broad range of responses and indicated that there was a need to push the issue up the collective bargaining agenda.
- Closing the Gender Wage Gap, EPSU/PSI Equal Pay Report Summary (English, French,German, Spanish, Swedish)
- Closing the Gender Wage Gap, EPSU/PSI Equal Pay Report (English)
- Lifelong Learning in the Public Services (English)
A brief introduction to the issue pointed to the spread of performance-related pay across the public services in most European countries, despite the lack of clear evidence that PRP could improve performance. Even private sector human resources experts had doubts about the effectiveness of the system. However, where unions were confronted with PRP there were a range of key issues they needed to address to ensure that the system was fair, objective, non-discriminatory, transparent and open to review.
A series of working group discussions confirmed many delegates’ concerns about PRP but also heard about cases where PRP appeared to work in practice for employees. They also found that the variety of schemes and definitions across different countries made it difficult for EPSU to develop further policy in this area at the moment.
Dave Hall of the Public Services International Research Unit explained the pay and conditions database that he had developed for EPSU and which would be available via the ESPU website.
The aim of the database was to provide very basic details about pay and conditions in the public services across Europe and enable affiliates to find out what is happening in specific sectors and/or specific sectors.
The database would also contain background material explaining how pay and conditions were determined in different countries and links to reports and other websites that related to collective bargaining.
Richard Pond of EPSU updated delegates on progress with the epsucob@ network. This now included 80 correspondents from 29 countries who were committed to providing information on collective bargaining developments in their countries and sectors.
The epsucob@NEWS monthly briefing had been started up as a way of encouraging affiliates to send EPSU details of their latest pay negotiations, disputes, strikes and other news on collective bargaining.
Outsourcing - the threat to collective bargaining
Outsourcing of services by public authorities and enterprises poses a threat to collective bargaining as workers are made redundant or transferred to new organisations that may have poorer working conditions or no collective agreements. This was one of the main conclusions of an EPSU seminar on collective bargaining in the utilities in May 2004 which had decided to focus on outsourcing and which had lead to a further discussion of the issue at the EPSU public utilities standing committee in September.
Delegates were told that the standing committee had agreed to look at the issue again in next year and decide to what extent it could pursue model agreements or codes of practice in the social dialogue or via European works councils.
A wide range of delegates joined in the outsourcing debate reflecting the importance of this issue for many EPSU affiliates.
- Outsourcing presentation
The Collective Bargaining Resolution at this year’s Congress commits EPSU to continue to monitor developments in pay, equal pay and lifelong learning. It also calls for specific initiatives in six key areas: low pay, corporate restructuring, young workers, migrant workers, older workers, and sustainable development and quality of jobs.
In the light of the conference debates on low pay and outsourcing, it was proposed that these would form the two main areas of policy development over the next 12 months with reports on progress with these at the next collective bargaining conference in December 2005.
With recruitment of young workers a vital issue for trade unions and as policy in this area would include initiatives around low pay and lifelong learning it was proposed that this should be one of the next priority areas. Collective bargaining policies on migrant workers would also be investigated at the same time as a number of EPSU affiliates had already done significant work in this area.
EPSU would look at how best to deal with issues around the recruitment and retention of older workers and sustainable development and quality of jobs at a later stage.
- Collective bargaining resolution action points (English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish)
- EPSU and collective bargaining - the next five years