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ISSUE 49 page 4

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Spanish youth at bottom of pile as slump bites
 THE PLIGHT OF THE SO-CALLED EU periphery countries in the south and east has worsened as the economic downturn has become a slump. Spain, already near the bottom of the unemployment league table, has been hit both by the halt in construction and the cutbacks imposed by multinational companies. The bare figures are eloquent enough: in January another 125,000 people registered as unemployed, adding 3% to the total, pushing it above 4 million for the first time. In an echo of 80s Britain other measures put the total even higher, 4.3 million according to household surveys and 4.5 million or 19.4% according to unions. Because they often accepted temporary contracts in the good times young people have been the easiest to lay off and here the statistics are truly staggering, unemployment of 15-24 year-olds having jumped from 17.5% three years ago to the current figure of 42.9%.

trade union confederation USO have proposed. Although Spain is spending €30 billion on unemployment benefit the union accuses the government of ‘generating more unease among workers insteadSpainYouthUnempChart

of embarking on urgent measures to contain rising unemployment’.

Newly redundant workers queue at a Job Centre in Madrid

Although construction and manufacturing were the first to be hit, the malaise has now spread so that 82% of the January redundancies were in the service sector. Nor is there much hope of improvement any time soon, five times as many redundancy notices or EREs (see issue 46) were posted in the first nine months of 2009 compared to 2008, mainly by private manufacturers.Meanwhile the government is under pressure to reduce the budget deficit of 11% back down to the limit of 3% that the EU prescribes in the euro-using countries. Such cuts are unlikely to stimulate the public sector as




US printer signs ground-breaking EWC deal
THE NEW EU DIRECTIVE ON EUROPEAN WORKS COUNCILS comes into force in June 2011 (see issue 45) but the world’s largest printing firm, RR Donnelley, has already adopted many of its provisions in a deal signed with unions recently. Although based in Chicago the company employs about 40,000 people in more than 40 countries, including plants in the UK, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands. Following a request from the British Unite union and  France’s FILPAC-CGT in 2006, negotiations were started between the company and a Special Negotiating Body (SNB) consisting of employee reps. from 12 European countries, as laid down in the directive. Although Donnelley management chose UK law to govern the works council, when the revised EU directive was adopted in May last year unions managed to incorporate the changes into the agreement with the company. Among its main features are definitions of ‘information’ and ‘consultation’ which follow those in the new directive and are designed to enable EWC reps. to influence company decision-making. The subjects covered are: the company's structure, economic and financial situation, production and sales, the prospects of the business, the probable trend of employment and investments, substantial changes concerning organisation, the introduction of new working methods, transfers of production, mergers, cutbacks or closures and collective redundancies. Annual meetings of the full council with a maximum trade union presence of 20 will be supplemented with more frequent select committee meetings involving three union reps. Extraordinary meetings will be held when a problem ‘potentially substantially adversely affects employee interests’. The cost of holding the meetings plus the costs of employing one expert adviser for reps. will be borne by the company. All reps. and expert advisers must abide by confidentiality provisions that prevent them from revealing sensitive company information even after they have ceased to work there. Any disputes about the terms of the EWC agreement will first be settled within the council but, if unresolved after four months, a third party may be appointed and, if they are unable to reach a settlement, the parties will go to the UK courts. Steve Sibbald, a Unite national officer, who assisted the SNB, said ‘The company have been very positive in their proposal … which has resulted in a good agreement for Donnelley's European employees’.

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