Negotiated a short-time work scheme that guaranteed public funds for companies and 80-90% of workers' income, saving about 1.2 million jobs

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Sophia REISECKER
Union of Private Sector Employees, Printing, Journalism and Paper (GPA-djp)

I represent a white-collar trade union active in most private sectors, known as "GPA-djp". In Austria, the social partners were involved at a very early stage. At the beginning of the crisis, they negotiated a short-time work scheme that guaranteed public funds for companies and 80-90% of workers' income. So far, about 1.2 million jobs have been saved through this system.

Within a few hours, the Austrian Trade Union Confederation ÖGB and the Chamber of Labour AK set up a website (https://jobundcorona.at/) and a hotline for workers with questions regarding their job, the Labour Code and COVID-19. There were thousands of calls on the hotline and hundreds of thousands of clicks on the website.

Social dialogue and collective bargaining have been key to easing the crisis for those affected and identifying sector-specific measures. While there was a lot of applause for frontline workers, we as trade unions aimed to improve their situation significantly and materially.

Health risks have especially affected workers in the retail sector. GPA-djp negotiated a comprehensive protection package with the employers covering all supermarkets for the period of the COVID-19 crisis. By 23 March, new health measures were put in place, including infrastructural improvements (e.g. breath protection plexiglass panes at checkouts). The stores had to close by 7 p.m. at the latest so that workers could have enough rest and refill the shelves safely and properly. Employees most at risk went on paid leave.

In the health and social services sector, working conditions changed drastically. Because this work involves dealing with people in person and treating patients, there is a high risk of infection. The collective agreement for the social economy concluded during the crisis grants a bonus of up to EUR 500 for workers that have direct contact with the public.