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ISSUE 60 page 2

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 Pay rises way behind inflation so workers take a cut in most of European Union
 ONLY TWO EU MEMBER STATES PLUS NORWAY SHOWED AN INCREASE IN REAL wages in  2011 according to the annual ‘Pay developments’ report compiled by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). Although all the countries surveyed experienced a nominal rise in average salaries, the effect of price inflation meant that, in the Union, only the Czech Republic and Sweden saw living standards rise, by 0.8% and 0.3% respectively, while oil-rich Norway, not a member, recorded a 3% increase. At the other end of the league the United Kingdom experienced the biggest fall as a 1.8% agreed average pay rise was more then wiped out by inflation resulting in a fall of 2.6% in buying power; workers in Malta and Portugal also suffered a 2% or greater cut. Civil servants generally fared even worse with all the countries
except Sweden reporting lower rises than in the rest of the economy. Some governments went much further than this however with pay freezes in Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and the UK in both 2010 and 2011. The civil service, and some of the wider public sector, in troubled Greece and Ireland, as well as the first IMF victim Latvia, was subjected to actual pay cuts, backdated in the case of Greece. In the retail and manufacturing sectors (represented by the chemical industry in the report) things were somewhat better. In Chemicals increases ranged from 0.7% in Malta to 16.7% in Slovenia and were usually higher in 2011 than in 2010. Negotiations in the retail sector resulted in pay rises higher than over the whole economy in most countries.
The Eurofound report predicts continued ‘very modest pay increases’ this year.

Average collectively agreed pay increase, in real terms, 2010 and 2011

 

 

Bargaining round-up
ALTHOUGH LATVIA WENT THROUGH a deep trough in economic output during the financial crisis (see issue 49) things seemed to be looking up in recent months and there has been a concurrent rise in trade union activity. Metalworkers, musicians, farmers and teachers have all held or threatened strikes and protests over the summer. So far the education union LIZDA and the LOSP co-op of agricultural organisations have had the best results. Latvian teachers called off their planned industrial action when the government found additional money on the instigation of the education minister and promised to review salaries in the light of this. LOSP was more interested in a programme of loans to buy land which, it felt, the government had failed to back up with sufficient funds. Under the pressure of proposed protests the Ministry of Agriculture allocated €14.23 million to the Mortgage and Land Bank of Latvia who will manage the loans.
IN EU CANDIDATE COUNTRY MACEDONIA doctors have reacted negatively to a government proposal to pay them according to how many patients they treat every month. Under the plan salaries would be varied by as much as 40% depending on whether a required monthly quota had been met. The Independent Trade Union of Medical Clinics set a deadline for the health ministry to withdraw the measure or face strike action. Spokesman Dejan Stavric believes that the new system ‘leaves tremendous space for manipulation’ and claims 90% support in the clinical centres of the capital, Skopje. ‘Patients are not numbers. Each has its own difficulty, its own story. I am offended if a patient should be treated as a number’ commented Snezhana Georgieva, president of the board of doctors at one of the centres. Last year doctors in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic won raises after going on strike.
LONG-RUNNING DISPUTES AT A FRENCH nuclear plant being built near Cherbourg have been settled in an agreement between electricity company EDF and five trade unions. A poor health and safety record and ill-treatment of foreign workers have dogged labour relations at the project which started in 2008. Four court cases are currently open concerning fatal accidents and breaches of employment law while 45 migrant workers are bringing an action under the EU’s Posted Workers directive alleging that pay was withheld for tax and social security payments that were never made. The deal mandates EDF to provide sufficient information for workers about health and safety including an introductory booklet in several languages, information points and places to take preventative action. EDF are also committed to make sure that sub-contractors give priority to young people who are long-term unemployed and without qualifications, and women returning from maternity leave, when recruiting locally. The CGT union called the agreement ‘a move towards extending workers’ rights’.




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