European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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16 novembre 2017

Austria: equal treatment of white and blue-collar workers finally agreed

On the 25th of October, the Austrian parliament voted for the so-called, ‘Angestelltengesetz’ reform. The reform act will remove the different treatment experienced by white and blue-collar workers. This harmonisation has been a long-standing demand of the Austrian trade union movement.

The so-called Angestelltengesetz (White-collar workers Act or Salaried Employee Act) was passed in May 1921 and regulates the rights of workers with regard to paid holidays, severance indemnity and retirement. Based on this act, white-collar workers enjoy additional privileges, particularly with regard to termination dates and periods, as far as these are not regulated by collective agreements.

Thus, the law led to substantial differences in treatment of white- and blue-collar workers. For instance, notice periods in case of termination, are mostly regulated by collective or company agreements. If that is not the case, the Angestelltengesetz or the Civil Code applies. If an employer wants to sack a white-collar worker the notice period, based on the Angestelltengesetz,  is one month. For blue-collar workers, the Civil Code has a termination period of two weeks. The two groups also have different sickness-pay periods. The amended Act that implies several changes of other parts of the country’s legislation (legislation on pay, the Civil Code and the Labour Code) enters into force in subsequent stages, starting 1 January 2018. 

The trade union confederation ÖGB and its affiliates have been asking for this equal treatment for many years. The trade unions’ aim is that the labour relation between an employer and a worker is based on unified private law based contracts. The ÖGB wants parliament to decide on proposals for a change of the existing differences before the next elections. The union criticises the employers’ organisation WKÖ which has expressed restraint regarding the necessary harmonisation of the status of white- and blue-collar workers. According to the ÖGB, the proposals are the result of two-years of expert work and negotiations, which have finally brought forth a model that will not lead to higher costs for the employer.    

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