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Author Topic: Austrian labor unions gear up to fight the [highly profitable] companies  (Read 1288 times)
Tender Branson
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« on: October 13, 2011, 04:51:39 am »
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Austria’s 170,000 metal workers are ready to down tools and take to the streets.



Labour union official said they would hold summits at the beginning of next week and may organise demonstrations. They made clear that strikes were another possible measure. The announcements come after staff’s chief negotiator Rainer Wimmer upset employers’ representative Christoph Hinteregger by publicly calling for a 5.5 per cent salary increase for all workers employed in the sector.

Hinteregger announced yesterday (Weds) he was "affected and surprised" by the announcement and criticised Wimmer’s decision to initiate a press conference to make his points of view public. Hinteregger explained he would have preferred a continuation of discussions behind closed doors and said an increase of such scale was impossible. The industry official argued none of the sector’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could cope with such a rise. Hinteregger claimed many firms only recently recovered from the effects of the economic crisis which broke out in autumn 2008.

Wimmer hit back by making clear that he was "sick of hearing the same points of view over and over again." The PRO-GE Union boss explained in a TV interview yesterday evening: "The industry keeps telling us ahead of possible crises that the economic outlook would not allow higher salaries. It says that no increases are possible during economic downturns and claims higher wages are out of reach after a crisis as the sector must recover."

Wimmer and his team of negotiators dismissed companies’ suggestions to increase employees’ earnings by 3.1 per cent. The metal industry also offered one-off payments of 200 Euros to every employee. The unionist said such measures meant no real salary increase considering Austria’s high inflation. The alpine country’s inflation was 3.7 per cent in August, significantly more than the European Union (EU) average (2.9 per cent).

Hinteregger made aware of economists’ predictions of a slump in growth. The Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) said last week Austria’s gross domestic product GDP would increase by 1.3 per cent from this year to 2012. Only in July, the institute predicted an improvement of 1.8 per cent. WIFO experts explained that export and people’s purchasing power – which proved to be solid in recent months – would not be able to carry the growth in the coming months.

Wimmer said: "We found out that metal industry firms paid 90 per cent of their profits of the past three years to shareholders and owners while staff were asked for modesty because of the volatile outlook. They were told that the strength of Austria as a business location would be at risk if wages were upped significantly."

The PRO-GE Union chief added: "It seems employees are not being taken seriously. The economy keeps growing strongly, companies have lots of assignments and some of them make sensational profits. We will not be satisfied with anything but the compensation of the inflation and an extra one-time payment."


Unionists and metal industry representatives will continue their wage negotiations next Wednesday (12 October). The outcome of the talks is of great importance as the discussions traditionally preceded talks between staff and firms of the retail trade and other branches of the domestic economy.

Meanwhile, the number of employed people in Austria keeps growing. Federal statistics agency Statistik Austria said last month 4.14 million residents of the country were in work between April and June, around 60,200 more than in the second quarter of 2010. Both the number for people in full-time and part-time occupations rose, according to analysts. Labour market experts have pointed out the high poverty risk of people in part-time contracts. They also emphasised the increasing joblessness among foreigners and significant improvements considering elderly people’s labour statistics.

Labour Market Service (AMS) chief Johannes Kopf told the Kurier newspaper earlier this week his organisation expected 9,000 more people with no job next year. Kopf warned that the forecast was made given that the current Eurozone crisis will not affect the labour market much more in the coming month than expected. "We don’t think (Austrian) companies will reduce their workforce figures as strongly as in 2009," the AMS head said. Kopf explained a "slight unemployment increase" was likely as firms’ demand for staff would shrink.

WIFO also said that the domestic unemployment rate would increase as more and more people were looking for jobs after finishing school and traineeships. Some experts expect that the Austrian jobless rate may also be affected by the recent opening of the domestic labour market to residents of all of the EU’s Eastern European (EE) countries but Bulgaria and Romania.

Eurostat, the European Commission’s (EC) research and statistics organisation, said Austria had the lowest unemployment rate among the EU’s 27 members at four per cent ahead of the Netherlands (4.1 per cent) and Luxembourg at 4.5 per cent. Statistik Austria research disclosed that 175,000 people were out of work between April and June 2011 in Austria – a decline of 12,000 compared to the same time span in 2010.

http://austrianindependent.com/news/Business/2011-10-06/9190/Metal_industry_braced_for_strike
« Last Edit: October 13, 2011, 04:53:47 am by Tender Branson »Logged
Mynheer Peeperkorn
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2011, 04:55:27 am »
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It's not the moment for asking for a salary increase.
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Tender Branson
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2011, 04:59:24 am »
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It's not the moment for asking for a salary increase.

Well, we are not Greece.

Austria's economy is growing by 4% this year, so are the profits of the companies. The inflation is also at about 3.5%.

Therefore it is only normal that the steel workers (and others) get at least a 4.5% pay rise.

The employers representatives demand that wages should only rise by 3% this year is ridiculous because it would mean a net wage loss because of the inflation.

It's good that the unions are turning up the heat on the capitalists. It's good for the middle-class.
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Mynheer Peeperkorn
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2011, 05:04:37 am »
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It's not the moment for asking for a salary increase.

Well, we are not Greece.

Austria's economy is growing by 4% this year, so are the profits of the companies. The inflation is also at about 3.5%.

Therefore it is only normal that the steel workers (and others) get at least a 4.5% pay rise.

The employers representatives demand that wages should only rise by 3% this year is ridiculous because it would mean a net wage loss because of the inflation.

It's good that the unions are turning up the heat on the capitalists. It's good for the middle-class.

If salaries should be increased according to GDP (a thing that the forces of the market would correct  without any policies a year later), when you have a recession you decrease salaries? That's nonsense.

Also, you are not Greece, but you are an eurozone country. Things could change quite quickly.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2011, 05:07:42 am by Mynheer Peeperkorn »Logged
Tender Branson
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2011, 05:06:06 am »
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It's even more ridiculous in the light that the manager profits of the steel companies rose by between 5-10% annually over the last years. The salaries of the CEO's of the best companies even rose by 20% over the last years.

http://www.arbeiterkammer.at/online/managergehaelter-115-millionen-euro-55682.html
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Mynheer Peeperkorn
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2011, 05:08:59 am »
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It's even more ridiculous in the light that the manager profits of the steel companies rose by between 5-10% annually over the last years. The salaries of the CEO's of the best companies even rose by 20% over the last years.

http://www.arbeiterkammer.at/online/managergehaelter-115-millionen-euro-55682.html

Well, that's a different problem. But don't mess Ethics with Economics.
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2011, 10:29:51 am »
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It's not the moment for asking for a salary increase.

Well, we are not Greece.

Austria's economy is growing by 4% this year, so are the profits of the companies. The inflation is also at about 3.5%.

Therefore it is only normal that the steel workers (and others) get at least a 4.5% pay rise.

The employers representatives demand that wages should only rise by 3% this year is ridiculous because it would mean a net wage loss because of the inflation.

It's good that the unions are turning up the heat on the capitalists. It's good for the middle-class.

If salaries should be increased according to GDP (a thing that the forces of the market would correct  without any policies a year later), when you have a recession you decrease salaries? That's nonsense.

No, they should be raised according to Inflation. Which means you can allow wages to freeze in a period of deflation.
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2011, 01:55:02 pm »
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It's not the moment for asking for a salary increase.

Well, we are not Greece.

Austria's economy is growing by 4% this year, so are the profits of the companies. The inflation is also at about 3.5%.

Therefore it is only normal that the steel workers (and others) get at least a 4.5% pay rise.

The employers representatives demand that wages should only rise by 3% this year is ridiculous because it would mean a net wage loss because of the inflation.

It's good that the unions are turning up the heat on the capitalists. It's good for the middle-class.

The unions over there should give those guys hell.  We have the same type of corporate crooks in America.  They are even in England...



When times are bad they have no problem asking you to be slave labor.  When times are good its nothing but lobster and champagne in the corporate suite and the REAL workers are told to go to hell.
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Tender Branson
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2011, 02:15:36 pm »
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Looks like the small strike today was worth it. The employers’ representative is now offering a pay-rise of 3.65% on monthly wages plus a one-time 200€ payment. Considering that the average wage of a steelworker here is 2200€ per month according to the Presse, the one time payment would be 17€ per month and an additional 0.75%, for a total of 4.4%

I guess the Unions will push on and the whole 170.000 metal workers will go on to strike in the next week, because now the time is really good to go for the 5.5% rise. Eventually I think the rise will be negotiated somewhere in between the 4.5-5% range.

The last strike in Austria was more than 50 years ago and it was successful then.

http://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/economist/700583/Alles-unter-45-Prozent-nicht-akzeptabel
« Last Edit: October 13, 2011, 02:21:04 pm by Tender Branson »Logged
Tender Branson
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2011, 02:34:33 pm »
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Here is the development of pay rises and inflation over the last years:




In the last years, the pay rise was mostly below the inflation rate and even during good economic years, it was just slightly above the inflation rate. So, now is the time to make up for the last years.
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Mynheer Peeperkorn
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2011, 04:45:56 pm »
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last strike in Austria

more than 50 years ago and it was successful then.


Protestant Ethic? But you are catholic...
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2011, 05:32:25 pm »
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No, they should be raised according to Inflation. Which means you can allow wages to freeze in a period of deflation.

So in other words, you want the default position to be a net wage increase in real terms over time?  That simply is not sustainable over time.  Wages should and can adjust over time as the economy and the need for certain jobs changes.
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2011, 09:00:32 am »
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No, they should be raised according to Inflation. Which means you can allow wages to freeze in a period of deflation.

So in other words, you want the default position to be a net wage increase in real terms over time?  That simply is not sustainable over time.  Wages should and can adjust over time as the economy and the need for certain jobs changes.

That sounds nice on paper, but in reality the opposite seems to be the case, as everyone I know who has a job is making more now then they would have in the 1880's, the 1920's or the 1950's. Wink

On a more serious note, the default position should be 'purchasing power' (do you guys have that term?) not going down, or not going down significantly over a longer period of time. And if possible at all, it should be rising.
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2011, 12:24:22 pm »
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That sounds nice on paper, but in reality the opposite seems to be the case, as everyone I know who has a job is making more now then they would have in the 1880's, the 1920's or the 1950's. Wink

How many people do you know who do their jobs today using only the tools and techniques available to them in 1880?

On a more serious note, the default position should be 'purchasing power' (do you guys have that term?) not going down, or not going down significantly over a longer period of time. And if possible at all, it should be rising.

Similarly, our expectations today are not the same as in 1880.  It's why tying wages to inflation is overly simplistic.
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2011, 10:54:38 am »
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While strikes are very rare in Austria and they have never lasted more than a few days, Austrians side with the striking workers, according to the new Gallup poll.

51% say the strike is justified
41% say it's not

Support is highest among SPÖ voters (78%) and FPÖ-voters (73%).

66% of Austrians think the wage increase should be higher than 4%, 28% say it should be higher than 5%. The inflation rate was 3.7% in September.

http://money.oe24.at/OeSTERREICH-Umfrage-51-Prozent-unterstuetzen-Metaller-Streik/43365112
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2011, 12:18:16 pm »
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Support is highest among SPÖ voters (78%) and FPÖ-voters (73%).

Well, duh.
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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2011, 12:18:51 pm »
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Wow, a strike in Austria!? Could easily be the only one in my lifetime.

It's not the moment for asking for a salary increase.

It's never "the moment" if you ask the employers and their apologists.

In recession, it is not "the moment" because well, it is recession. When economy is grwoing a little, it is not the moment because higher wages would starve the growth.
During boom times, it is not the moment because business has to recover from the precedent recession. Etc...

In fact, employees need to fight for as much as they can get, at any time.
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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2011, 12:24:33 pm »
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Support is highest among SPÖ voters (78%) and FPÖ-voters (73%).

Well, duh.

Yeah, the FPÖ is increasingly the party of the workers.

The numbers are almost not adding up:

This poll also says that SPÖ has 29% support, FPÖ 27%, ÖVP 23%, Greens 13% BZÖ 5%.

If 78% of SPÖ voters back it and 73% of FPÖ voters, this would already be 42% support out of 51%. If we add about 60% of Green voters, then there would already be 50% support.

That means almost no ÖVP or BZÖ voter is supporting the strike.
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« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2011, 12:35:10 pm »
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Yeah, the FPÖ is increasingly the party of the workers.

One of the two parties of workers.

I remember the results of the last Vienna elections, in districts like Favoriten and Simmering, SPÖ and FPÖ together had about 85% of the vote, ÖVP and Greens in single digits.
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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2011, 12:38:25 pm »
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Yeah, the FPÖ is increasingly the party of the workers.

One of the two parties of workers.

I remember the results of the last Vienna elections, in districts like Favoriten and Simmering, SPÖ and FPÖ together had about 85% of the vote, ÖVP and Greens in single digits.

SPÖ and FPÖ distribution in Vienna is essentially the same, yeah.
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« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2011, 04:13:09 pm »
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Seems like a pretty strong case, so little wonder the public are backing the strikes.
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« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2011, 03:08:40 am »
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The strikes have now been called off (after 1 day), because the Union boss and the Minister for Economy pressured the worker/employers representatives to take up the talks again.

It will be interesting what the new talks today will bring. Probably an increase of about 4% with a 1-time payment of 200€, which means a total pay rise of about 4.7%
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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2011, 01:37:08 am »
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The talks have ended with a result:

Wage groups A & B will get a pay rise of 5.3% (low income, minimum-wage metal workers)

Wage groups C & D will get a pay rise of 4.3%

Wage groups E & F will get a pay rise of 4.2%

Wage group G will get a pay rise of 4.0%

Wage groups H, I, J, K will get a pay rise of 3.8% (high-income metal workers)

The minimum wage for metal workers will rise from 1515€ (2120$) to 1583€ (2220$) a month.

The Unions also bargained a better imputation of maternal leave times, so that women who have kids will now get faster into higher wage brackets like before. For each kid, the maternal leave imputation has been raised from 10 months to 16 months.

...

Therefore the Unions have done a good job at negotiating a good pay rise. The average inflation rate was 2.8% in the past 12 months, while the current inflation is about 3.7% - The unions bargained payrises well above the inflation rates and especially for low income workers. The metal industry costs for the pay rise will amount to about 300 Mio. €

http://derstandard.at/1318726088561/Einigung-nach-Verhandlungsmarathon-Metaller-Loehne-legen-kraeftig-zu-Im-Schnitt-42-Prozent-Plus
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« Reply #23 on: October 19, 2011, 10:47:18 am »
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The talks have ended with a result:

Wage groups A & B will get a pay rise of 5.3% (low income, minimum-wage metal workers)

Wage groups C & D will get a pay rise of 4.3%

Wage groups E & F will get a pay rise of 4.2%

Wage group G will get a pay rise of 4.0%

Wage groups H, I, J, K will get a pay rise of 3.8% (high-income metal workers)

The minimum wage for metal workers will rise from 1515€ (2120$) to 1583€ (2220$) a month.

The Unions also bargained a better imputation of maternal leave times, so that women who have kids will now get faster into higher wage brackets like before. For each kid, the maternal leave imputation has been raised from 10 months to 16 months.


I approve.
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« Reply #24 on: November 05, 2011, 04:41:26 pm »
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My opinion of Austria is really improving lately: population registers that work, unions who actually defend the rights of their workers...
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