Following an intense battle and the first walkout in the Austrian metal industry since 2018, the unions' concerted efforts have resulted in significant gains for over 200,000 workers across six sub-sectors. All employees in the metal industry will receive a permanent increase, starting from 1 November 2023. The actual wage increase will be 10%, capped at €400 per month.
The agreement benefits workers in all wage categories and addresses different needs. It pays particular attention to low- and middle-income groups. There will also be significant increases in minimum wages, allowances, reimbursements and apprenticeship pay.
The agreement also provides for hardship clauses for companies facing economic challenges. The use of such clauses will have to be justified and endorsed by trade unions and employers' organisations.
This milestone result is the outcome of an intense struggle that began with the unions' demands in September, aimed primarily at alleviating the pressing cost of living crisis. The central demand for an 11.6% pay rise, together with qualitative improvements to existing agreements, set the stage for a negotiation process that saw a huge gap between the unions' demands and the employers' initial offers.
Breaking with the traditional approach of linking wage levels to the rate of inflation over the preceding 12 months, the employers even proposed cuts to existing rights, including overtime bonuses. In response, Pro-GE and GPA put together a comprehensive industrial action plan to apply the necessary pressure.
Seven regional conferences, attended by over 2,300 company representatives, unequivocally supported the decision to organise meetings and walkouts until an agreement was reached. The wave of solidarity that followed was impressive, with over 100,000 workers taking part in strikes across the country, from large companies to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Strategic walkouts took place in 140 companies, complemented by protest rallies in major cities such as Vienna and Salzburg. The unions received letters of solidarity from international federations and sister unions, demonstrating global support for their cause.
Isabelle Barthès, Acting Joint General Secretary of industriAll Europe says:
“As well as addressing workers’ immediate concerns, the agreement sets a positive precedent for collective bargaining in the country. It demonstrates the power of collective action, of international solidarity and the strong commitment of Pro-GE and GPA to securing fair and just conditions for workers in the Austrian metal industry.”
IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie:
“We congratulate the unions for their victory in this collective bargaining round. This time it was necessary to go to strike, but with unity and strength the Austrian unions have shown the metal employers that nothing can break their resolve.”