What the Federal Government has put forward under the heading 'flexible working time' brings the working day to 12 hours and introduces a 60-hour work week for many workers as standard, depending on the employer's will without involvement of works councils and social partner agreement.
So far, extension of weekly working time is possible under specific conditions. On request for more overtime, work week can go up to 60 hours, and daily working time up to 12 hours provided that it is not more than 24 weeks a year. If working time is extended on that basis, for eight consecutive weeks, any such overtime shall be inadmissible for the next two weeks. The working time extensions have to be permitted by the Labour Inspectorate and agreed in a plant-level agreement with the works council and the individual employer.
Under the Government’s plans, it will now be possible to work 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week, at any time and without conditions. The overtime payments will be decreased while, in the case of flextime, they will even be completely cut. As these extensions of working time will no longer be regulated in a company-level agreement with the involvement of works councils, benefits for employees such as higher bonuses or extra compensatory free time can no longer be negotiated. The governing parties argue that the individual worker may retain the right to refuse the proposed overtime.
When the Government was faced with the criticism that the initiative for extending working time is unfounded and was not agreed with the social partners, they referred to the social partner paper from 2017 which included long-standing employers´ demands for working time flexibilisation. To this day, trade unions have rejected this paper.
The proposed change constitutes the biggest attack on workers, their health and income for decades and cannot go ahead. IndustriAll Europe stands alongside its Austrian affiliate PRO-GE in refuting the proposal.
“The Austrian act on organising working time is actually a law to protect workers. Now it has been converted by the government into an exploitative law to increase the profits of companies and it was decided upon in a fast-track manner without proper assessment," Rainer Wimmer, Chairman of industriAll Europe affiliate PRO-GE, explained and continued: "About a hundred years ago, the 8-hour day was introduced. Now it's supposed to be 12 hours a day in the 21st century. That's a betrayal of our workers.”
General Secretary of industriAll Europe, Luc Triangle, commented; “The decision of the new Austrian government to impose the extension of working time without prior negotiations with the work Council is a major attack on workers’ and trade union’ rights. We all know that it is impossible for individual workers to refuse to work overtime without the protection of collective guarantees. This will lead to more mental and physical illness and increase the risk of accident at work.”
A mobilisation against the planned deterioration of working time is in full swing in Austria. The Austrian Trade Union Federation with all its 7 affiliates (PRO-GE included) is preparing a mass demonstration on Saturday 30 June 2018 against the 12-hour day in Vienna. The information campaign in companies has already started with more than 100 staff meetings nationwide.