World of Work:
From JEFF APTER in Paris
Special to the UE NEWS
The Euro prompts a new
joint collective bargaining strategy among Europe's unions a British study says part-time jobs will account for a third of
all employment by the year 2010 workers in Spain are demanding
a 35-hour work week to combat a 19% unemployment rate Japanese
automakers pursue alliances German unions propose
job-sharing to spur higher employment ... was France's
35-hour workweek law responsible hundreds of thousands of new jobs?
electrical and metalworker trade unions are drafting a joint collective bargaining
strategy in response to the arrival this month of the Euro, the new European common
Worth a bit more than the dollar, the Euro came into effect on Jan. 1 for
major financial transactions in 11 of the 15 member countries of the European Union. It
will come into effect as money for ordinary people in 2002.
The strategy of the European Metalworkers Federation, which
affiliates seven million metalworkers from 25 unions all over Europe, is the first of its
kind among European unions as they respond to the effect on workers rights,
conditions and collective bargaining of the increased competition expected from the
The EMF accuses European engineering employers of using the arrival of the
common currency to fragment wage bargaining at the company, regional and national level
and so weaken union power. The EMF is due to meet in Frankfurt, Germany in February to
endorse the strategy document.
All employment growth in the next decade will come from part-time jobs,
according to Cambridge Econometrics, a major economics consultancy. It underlines how
flexible working patterns, especially in services, have become one of the most important
forces in influencing the British economy.
The report indicates that by 2010, nearly one third of all jobs will be
part-time, compared to less than one-fifth in 1980. The biggest change will affect women,
who by 2010 will have more part-time jobs than full-time contracts. It states that
manufacturing will lose jobs at an average of 1.5 percent annually in the next 10 years.
unionists have been demonstrating for the 35-hour work week, tax reform and better
coverage for unemployed workers. Spains 19 percent unemployment rate is the highest
A day of action held in cities throughout Spain was called by the Workers
Commissions and the UGT, the countrys two main labor federations. They say a shorter
working week will boost the jobs market and that action is needed to help the 40 percent
of Spains 3 million unemployed who do not have social cover. A further day of action
is expected in the spring.
urge to merge that has hit the worlds automobile industry appears to have had little
apparent effect in Japan but it has emerged that leading auto manufacturers like Nissan,
Honda and Mitsubishi are in alliance talks with U.S. and European partners causing concern
for jobs among unions.
The silence underscores the importance of tie-ups to Japanese
manufacturers in the countrys biggest recession for decades. Alliances or mergers
represent an easy way to get companies back on their feet by clearing balance sheets of
heavy debts and loss-making operations.
As Germanys unemployment rate rose sharply again to pass the
four million mark, the unions say 800,000 jobs could be created through job-sharing. The
number of unemployed people in Europes biggest economy rose to 4.2 million in
December to affect nearly 11 percent of the workforce.
DGB, Germanys labor federation, believes it is possible to create
800,000 jobs by reducing overtime and increasing part-time work. "There must be a
rapid and efficient redistribution of work," said DGB President Dieter Schulte. He
stated that overtime worked in 1998 represents the "equivalent of one million
full-time jobs." Since half of this is in seasonal work, 400,000 jobs could be
created, he said. The same figure is advanced by the Federal labor office.
Meanwhile, the unions hope that the appointment of a leading trade
unionist will lead to policies that start to bring down Germanys near-record
unemployment level. Walter Riester, the deputy president of the 3-million strong
electrical and metalworkers union IG Metall Germanys biggest union and
among the largest in the world has taken over as Labor Secretary in the new Social
Democrat-Green coalition administration elected on Sept. 27 of last year.
He has been responsible for IG Metalls collective bargaining
strategy and played a central role in negotiating the 35-hour week in the metalworking
industry. His key task is to strike an "alliance for jobs" between the
administration, unions and employers to tackle unemployment.
300,000 jobs were created in the private sector in France last year but it is not yet
known how many of these derive from the law establishing the 35-hour work week.
The law, adopted by parliament and the Socialist-led administration last
June, makes shorter working hours compulsory by 2000 for companies with more than 20
employees and two years later for small firms and states that working time reductions must
be without loss of salary. Agreement has been reached so far in 23 industrial sectors
concerning 4.4 million employees and talks are going on in others.
Frances present 39-hour week was introduced in 1982 after being at
40 hours since 1936.