Austria Table of Contents
In addition to the trade unions, and theoretically separate from them, are the works councils, which exist at the plant level as the elected representatives of all plant employees, whether or not they are union members. According to law, the works councils look after the economic, social, health, and cultural interests of employees. This, in practice, means involvement in matters of discipline, safety, sanitation, dismissal, and transfer, as well as the handling of grievances and the implementation of collective bargaining agreements. Works councils in corporations also have a voice in management, electing two members to the corporate board of directors with all the rights and duties of other directors.
Although these various bodies representing labor are theoretically separate, they work closely together, not only because of overlapping interests and responsibilities but also because labor leaders tend to be functionaries of both the unions and the chambers. At higher levels, they are frequently members of parliament as well. At lower levels, the elected members of the works councils in the plants are almost invariably union members and are usually union officials as well.
Despite an apparent superfluity of bodies representing the interests of labor, the division of primary responsibilities between them is fairly clear. The chambers represent a worker's interest on the economic policy level, the works councils are concerned with a worker's everyday interest at the plant level, and the unions serve primarily as collective bargaining agents. In this function, a specific union usually conducts the actual negotiations, and the ÖGB has the ultimate power of approval and reserves for itself the negotiating authority for agreements that pertain to all employed persons.
Data as of December 1993