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Trade Union Influence

Compared with other trade unions the degree of unionisation in agricultural unions is lower. Certainly one reason is the industry structure with many small companies. On the other hand the trade unions have a network of corporate representation bodies such as works councils, company unions and shop stewards allowing them to reach a large share of the workers. In a number of countries their reach is as high as 100 % of the employees in agriculture, forestry and horticulture.

The Situation in International Comparison:

Tabelle International Comparison: Trade Union Influence

The Situation in Individual European Countries:

AT: Austria

The trade union has about 4,000 employees as members, so the degree of unionisation is 30%. In the agricultural sector there are 40 works councils. Works councils can be elected in companies with more than 5 employees. The degree of unionisation is decreasing slightly.


BE: Belgium

The trade union ACV has 3,500 members in the agricultural sector. ACV has 10 organised works councils.


BG: Bulgaria

The trade union has 6,000 organised workers. The trade unions are present in 15 % of the companies, i. e. in 125 companies. The trade unions' reach is 7.5 % of the agricultural workforce.


CH: Switzerland

Workers in agriculture are organised in the trade union UNIA. Where there is trade union activity (not only UNIA) improvements have been achieved, e. g. in the cantons of Geneva, Waadt. In the cantons of Bern, Aargau and Zürich trade union activity is on the increase. In general there is higher trade union presence in the French speaking part of Switzerland than in the other regions. Campaigns are difficult and do not have priority in UNIA. In 2007 there is a campaign for creating a uniform binding national contract, demanding equal minimum wages and working times for Switzerland and for putting agriculture under the labour law!


CY: Cyprus

(No data available)


CZ: Czech Republic

OSPZV-ASO has about 80,000 members, but not all of them in the agricultural sector. In the agricultural sector OSPZV-ASO has about 560 organisations in companies, thereof in 1-2 companies in forestry in Northern Bohemia. The union's reach is over 60 %.

Traditionally there have been legally independent company unions. Since Jan. 1, 2001, there has been the possibility of setting up works councils in the enterprises. If company unions are set up the works councils are dissolved.


DE: Germany

The number of unionised workers is slightly declining, so the degree of unionisation in agriculture is about 10 %. In horticulture the companies are smaller, unionisation is well under 10 %, and in state forestry it is over 50 %. More than 80 works councils (mostly IG BAU members), mainly in large companies, present the trade union there, thus addressing about 20 % of the employees in agriculture directly.


DK: Denmark

The degree of unionisation in the Danish trade union is over 65 %, which is higher than the European average. In larger companies (10 workers and more) workers can elect a works council. In horticulture the degree of unionisation is higher than in agriculture due to the larger company size.


EE: Estonia

There are 4,800 trade union members (2000). At the national level there is the trade union and 21 in-company trade union organisations.

The shop stewards work for the trade union one day a week and receive the minimum wage plus travel expenses.

The degree of unionisation is 10-20 %.

There are legally independent company trade unions.


ES: Spain

Taken together the trade unions (CC.OO and UGT) have a degree of unionisation of 14 %. The trade unions are present in 20 % of the 250,000 companies. The union' reach varies considerably between the regions, it can be up to 50 %.


FI: Finland

The degree of unionisation amongst full-time employees is 50 %, with 2,500 workers being union members. All companies are covered by collective agreements, which are universally binding under the law. The trade union has a network of contacts that reaches beyond the works councillors (shop stewards). Thus the unions cover 100 % of the employees, i. e., a total of 8,200 workers, one third of them being seasonal workers.


FR: France

50,000 agricultural workers are trade union members. In 2,500 companies the union FGA-FCDT is represented. The degree of unionisation is 8 %.


GB: United Kingdom

Workers who are members of a trade union that is recognised by the employer are entitled to adequate paid time off work for certain trade union activities. Employees with trade union functions are entitled to paid time off work for certain trade union activities. The trade union has 18,000 organised members.


GR: Greece

The trade unions are organised at three levels:

  • - Employees may form associations at the company or local level and within their professional groups.
  • - The second level trade union organisations are formed at the regional level based on the employee centres and associations. The employee centres are formed by the various associations.
  • - The General Greek Trade Union Federation (GSEE) is the third level trade union organisation. Its members are the employee centres and the associations. It represents the trade unions at the national level.

National associations may conclude collective agreements.

Employers and trade union negotiate the collective agreements. In certain cases the Ministry of Employment may assist in the negotiations. The collective agreements lay down the minimum wages for most professional groups every year.


HR: Croatia

In agriculture 4,500 workers are unionised.


HU: Hungary

In 7 regions there are 180 grassroots organisations. They are led by the regional committees with one independent region leader each.


IE: Ireland

The trade unions negotiate collective agreements with the companies.


IS: Iceland

500 workers, and all of them union members, i. e. 100 % unionisation.

There are only 15-20 large companies with employees. 1,000 seasonal workers are also organised (because of welfare).


IT: Italy

The trade unions exert influence through their company representatives. If one union is represented in a company there is one RSA (Trade Union Representative). If there are several unions in one company they form a Trade Union Representation (RSU).

The degree of unionisation is 50 % (in forestry 100 %), the trade union reach is 100 %.


LT: Lithuania

TUFLAW has 4,500 workers as members. The degree of unionisation is 10 %. In 153 companies there are trade union representatives. The trade union's reach is 25 %. Union officers may use 2 days per quarter for trade union work.

In the services sector (MTS) TUFLAW is represented in 41 companies.


LU: Luxembourg

In Luxembourg trade union influence is rather high. The degree of unionisation is 55 %.


LV: Latvia

In agriculture about 4,000 workers are unionised (plus unemployed people, who pay no membership fees). The degree of unionisation is 10 %. In 10 % of the companies the trade unions are represented.


MT: Malta

Employees' and employers' organisations are not considered legal entities, but they are allowed to conclude agreements.


NL: Netherlands

The degree of unionisation is 10 %, the trade union is present in 200 companies. The unions can reach 40 % of the employees. For some time now the unions have tried to increasingly recruit migrants as members. One step in that direction is to hold special office hours for them.


NO: Norway

The trade union has 1,500 members, which is equivalent to a degree of unionisation of about 10 % of permanently employed workers and 1% of seasonal workers.

Trade unions are represented in 10 % of the companies. 3,000 workers are covered by collective agreements. The trade union reach is 100 %. For this purpose the trade union has started a project with special activities.


PL: Poland

In agriculture 32,000 employees are trade union members of ZZPR and 'Solidarność'. The union is active in 436 out of 1,320 companies, which is a reach of 33%.


PT: Portugal

The degree of unionisation is 10%. In total there are 10,000 farms with 75,000 employees. A good degree of unionisation is reached in the large companies in the South of Portugal. In that region there are 3,000 farms with 5,000 employees. All employees can be reached through the collective agreement.


RO: Romania

The trade union is represented in 179 companies, the degree of unionisation is 50 %.


SE: Sweden

6,000 agricultural workers are trade union members. The degree of unionisation is 50 %. The reach of the unions is 100 %. A network of regional representatives can contact every trade union member. The local trade union representatives are financed by an additional contribution (1 % of the wage). They provide information and advice for the trade union workers in the regions and in the companies.

For every region there is a safety officer, who is elected by the union. The safety officers are paid by the trade union, and the state refunds the money. This officer has the right to access all companies.


SI: Slovenia

The degree of unionisation in agriculture and forestry is 75 %.


SK: Slovakia

There are competing worker councils and company trade unions. One of the rights of the trade unions is to conclude collective agreements. The may conclude company agreements or framework collective agreements for several companies. The functions of the worker councils at the company level include participation, consulting, providing information and monitoring.

2050 agricultural employees are trade union members, which is equivalent to a unionisation of 4 %.

There are 124 company trade unions or in-company contacts.


TR: Turkey

In agriculture there are two major trade unions organising the workers:

TARIM-IS (Orman-Topraksu- Tarim Ve Tarim Sanayii Iscileri Sendikasi) has about 35,000 members in the whole country. The union is a member of the umbrella organisation Türk-Is.

Tarim Orman Is has about 19,000 members and belongs to the umbrella organisation HAK-Is.

Both trade unions are allowed to conclude collective agreements. In agriculture and forestry the trade unions are exempt from the 10 % clause, i. e. this minimum degree of unionisation as a precondition for concluding collective agreements does not apply.

In one industry only the trade union with the largest number of members has the right to conclude collective agreements.

35,000 employees earn the collectively agreed wage.

The unions are well organised in state companies, and not as well in the private sector. The trade union reach is 10 % of the employees.