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Trade Union Involvement

The involvement of the agricultural trade unions at the company level has traditionally been very strong. The same applies to the representative bodies of the welfare insurance. In a number of countries they have a say in the labour court system as voluntary judges or lay judges.

There is a lack of economic co-determination, especially in the field of the European participation model. The trade union federations frequently perform the representation function in the according bodies. This may, or may not always, be in the interest of the employees from the agricultural sector. Influencing the political decision-taking process is another focus area of trade union work, mainly regarding social and agricultural policy.

The Situation in International Comparison:

Tabelle International Comparison: Trade Union Involvement

The Situation in Individual European Countries:

AT: Austria

Austria has a comprehensive participation system for the two sides of industry. In agriculture there are also agricultural workers' chambers. Participation in EU programmes is usually managed through the umbrella organisation, ÍGB. The government asks the two sides of industry for their opinion on any draft legislation or issues relating to them.


BE: Belgium

Trade union delegates are elected at the company level every four years.

The social security bodies are led by an administration body with two-partite membership.


BG: Bulgaria

There are company unions. The unions are represented in the welfare insurance scheme. The umbrella organisation is involved in the work of the labour courts and in the National Agency for Training. The trade union is part of the tri-partite scheme.


CH: Switzerland

UNIA is a member of the Swiss Trade Union Federation (SGB). It is involved in monitoring commissions (accident insurance, political bodies, etc.) as well as in the platform for socially sustainable agriculture (mainly Western Switzerland). Other (regional) trade unions are active in monitoring commissions, etc., as well as in the platform for socially sustainable agriculture at the level of cantons.


CY: Cyprus

Cyprus has a tri-partite system. The Ministry of Labour has the role of a mediator.


CZ: Czech Republic

In the agricultural sector there are 560 company unions. Involvement in the tri-partite system at the national and regional levels.


DE: Germany

Germany has developed a comprehensive culture of participation that is accepted by all forces of society. However, there are regular attempts, mainly by liberal and conservative forces, to curb industrial co-determination by trade unions. New participation options are opened up by European promotion programmes that reach right into the area of economic co-determination.


DK: Denmark

The Danish trade unions are closely integrated into a social partnership scheme. Traditionally they have a large political clout. In health insurance companies they just have an advisory function.


EE: Estonia

The trade unions have a say in vocational training at the national level, and they are represented in the tri-partite system.


ES: Spain

In companies with fewer than 50 employees the workers can elect "delegados", in companies with more than 50 employees they can elect a "comite des empresas". In addition to the committees the companies with more than 50 employees can elect specialists for health and safety at work. They are the trade union officers for prevention at the same time.

In the national council and provincial councils the trade unions work in a tri-partite system (1 union member, 1 employer and 1 state representative) that deals with influencing and supervising the administration.

In vocational training the trade unions are active at the national and regional levels in FORCEM, a tri-partite education and training fund. Every year 15,000 workers go through FAA qualification courses, mainly dealing with electronic data processing and tractor driving licenses.

The unions participate in programmes such as Leonardo or rural development programmes.

Trade unions and employer representatives have the same number of representatives and the same rights everywhere, e. g. in the Spanish Economic and Social Council.


FI: Finland

The Finnish union is strongly involved in the political decision-taking process. A point to be specially highlighted is that the unions can provide their expert knowledge in expert groups for social policy.


FR: France

At the company level the trade unions are participating in the enterprise committees (elected employee representation bodies in companies).

The unions exert influence on education through a bi-partite institution (FAFSEA). In agriculture there are committees for social and cultural affairs at the national and regional level with equal representation of employers and employees.


GB: United Kingdom

At the national level trade unions are involved in the work of the Agriculture Wages Board. At the company level there are shop stewards (comparable to works councils or company trade unions). In vocational training the trade unions are members in the education fund with parity membership and in the test council (NPTC). In the field of occupational health and safety they take part in the AIAC.

TGWU is engaged in many initiatives in rural areas, i.e. rural agencies, environmental and agricultural initiatives with the aim of a sustainable rural economy and paid local jobs.


GR: Greece

(No data available.)


HR: Croatia

A collective agreement is required for companies with more than 100 employees.

There are company unions. The social dialogue at the tri-partite level is poorly developed.


HU: Hungary

Companies with more than 50 employees must elect a works council. Companies with 15 to 50 employees have to elect a company representative. Trade unions may put forwards candidates for elections in companies.

In every company that employs union members there is also a company trade union organisation.

Through our union confederation we are indirectly involved in the work of the pension committee (Nyugdíjbiztosítási Ellenőrző Testület).

There is no separate unemployment insurance. Employers pay 3 %, employees pay 1.5 % of the gross wage into the employee fund (Munkaerőpiaci Alap), which also finances the benefit system for unemployed workers. Indirectly we are involved in the administration of the employee fund through the confederation.

The trade unions may be represented in commercial courts by lay judges.


IE: Ireland

In Ireland the shop stewards play a vital role in the relationship between employees and companies. The shop stewards are the elected trade union representative at the workplace. They get the qualification for their tasks in trade union education facilities.


IS: Iceland

Due to the small company size the are no works councils. The trade union can participate in EU programmes, such as Leonardo, but there is no partnership under EU corporatism.


IT: Italy

In the companies the trade unions are represented by the in-company trade union representatives (similar to company-specific unions). In the welfare system the unions are represented in committees (Orientation and Oversight Committee). In the supervisory board of the accident insurance INAIL the chairperson is a trade union representative. In bilateral committees the trade unions influence the vocational training system. Since December, 2006, there has been a statutory fund for further education (ForAgri), which employers finance by paying 0.3 % of the wage into the fund. Another fund for vocational training in agriculture has existed for 6-7 years (AgriForm).


LT: Lithuania

The social dialogue within the tri-partite system is a focus area of work. That is where all important issues of social policy are discussed. Representatives include 5 from the trade union, 5 from the employer side and 5 from the state.


LU: Luxembourg

The trade unions are represented in the companies by works councils, mixed works councils and administration boards. At the national level the trade unions are represented by elected members in welfare insurance and health insurance bodies, trade chambers, etc.

Another model used in Luxembourg is the "tri-partite group“, which includes government, employer and trade unions representatives.


LV: Latvia

The law provides the rules for participation in a tri-partite system. Trade unions have 7 seats along with 7 employer and 7 state representatives. In welfare matters two trade union representatives are on the council. The unions receive information on current government plans.

A current problem is the abolition of the "Sugar Act", which will have major implications on the number of jobs in agriculture and in the sugar industry. In this process the trade unions are heard and involved in the negotiations on the social plan.


MT: Malta

Tri-partite system.


NL: Netherlands

The union is involved in the participation system in social security matters, in health and safety at work matters just in a prevention scheme. A model of participation similar to the chambers is "stichting voor arbeid".


NO: Norway

Norway has a comprehensive system of trade union participation. In a number of companies the trade union has members on the board of directors.


PL: Poland

The trade union is represented in parliament and in the tri-partite committee, and in the bodies of ZUS and KRUS, as advisor to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, in employment committees in the districts and provinces.

The trade union makes assessments on legal transaction projects that affect agriculture and employees.


PT: Portugal

Specialists for health and safety at work exist only in companies with more than 50 employees, of which there are none in agriculture. In the labour and social courts there is no possibility of legal assistance for trade union members. In the field of education and training only projects were supported. In partnership activities under EU programmes the trade union has contacts through the trade union federation.


RO: Romania

In the framework of the social dialogue the trade unions are involved in work at the Ministry level in the fields of agriculture, economic and social affairs, health and accident insurance and vocational training.


SE: Sweden

In Sweden there is a comprehensive system of trade union participation. The trade union is represented on the board of the welfare insurance. There are special committees for health and safety at work with trade union representatives.


SI: Slovenia

In the companies the trade unions are represented by works councils, in the welfare insurance bodies they are represented in joint committees. Economic co-determination is weak. Political co-determination is secured well. Members of the second house of parliament include representatives of all groups of society, so trade unions are represented. The second chamber needs to be heard in all legislation projects and can influence the legislation process. The agricultural trade union is represented through the trade union federation.


SK: Slovakia

Company trade unions, worker councils or shop stewards; tri-partite system.


TR: Turkey

There are company unions, but no in-company experts for health and safety at work. The Turkish unions participate in the social security systems and in the education system. They make statements to influence political decisions.