This description of the industrial relations landscape in Austria is provided by our Austrian partners, the manufacturing union Pro-Ge. The Austrian industrial relations system is mainly based on close voluntary cooperation between employers, employees …

Walton Pantland

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This description of the industrial relations landscape in Austria is provided by our Austrian partners, the manufacturing union Pro-Ge.

The Austrian industrial relations system is mainly based on close voluntary cooperation between employers, employees´ representatives and the state – which is commonly referred to as social partnership. This specifically Austrian manifestation of corporatism is, by international standards, highly developed. In contrast with other countries, the Austrian social partnership is a highly institutionalised cooperation between the industrial relations actors that covers all important matters of economic and social policy.

Despite its ‘institutionalised’ character, this system of close cooperation is mostly of an informal nature and not regulated by law. Nevertheless, the core social partner organizations are anchored in Austria’s political system in numerous ways, in that they are equipped with the following rights:

  • to evaluate draft legislation and even to draft texts for legislation in their sphere of interest;
  • to make recommendations to law-making bodies;
  • to be represented on numerous commissions, advisory boards and committees dealing with socio-economic issues – in particular, the Public Employment Service (AMS) – and social insurance institutions;
  • and to nominate candidates to act as lay judges in labour and social courts, as well as to appoint assessors for the cartel court.

Moreover, they have the right to conduct collective bargaining. In Austria collective bargaining is highly centralized with wage bargaining concentrated at branch-level with negotiators from sectoral unions. As all employer irrespective of the size of their enterprise are obliged to adhere to the sectoral employers´association within the main employers´organisation Economic Chamber of Austria (WKÖ) all employees of a sector are covered by a collective agreement which is legally binding. Collective bargaining in Austria mainly focuses on quantitative issues, such as remuneration (increases in wages/salaries – both minimum and effectively paid wages) and working time. Training issues fall, in particular, within the competence of the statutory vocational training system, where the social partners are strongly involved.

We have annual collective bargaining rounds in autumn for some 500,000 employees where the metal industry takes a leading role as it is the first sector where negotiations start for more than 180,000 employees. The results reached by the metal industry agreement set the pattern for the subsequent negotiation in the sectors to follow.

Industrial relations context

During the period of the conservative–right-wing populist government between 2000 and 2006, the Austrian system of social partnership was overtly challenged. However, Austrian corporatism has largely recovered since the mid-2000s, when the ‘grand coalition’ government between the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) took office again.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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