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Not affiliated to a particular party, the ÖGB nevertheless has strong political ties through its system of political groupings.

Figures from the unions indicate that there are 1.24 m trade union members in Austria (end 2008). Around a fifth of them are retired and figures from a comparative database of union membership put union density in Austria at 31.7% in 2006.[1] Trade union organisation is stronger among manual workers and public sector employees than among non-manual workers.


There is only one trade union confederation in Austria, the ÖGB, founded in 1945 to overcome the political divisions between unions which had existed before the fascist take-over. The ÖGB is divided into eight separate unions.


The five largest unions are: the GPA-DJP (non-manual private sector) with 265,000 members; the GÖD (central government and some other public sector) with 230,000; the GMNT (metal, energy, textile and food workers) with 223,000; Vida (transport and services) with 157,000; and the GdG (local government workers) with 146,000 (155,000 following its merger with the union for culture and sport).


Recent years have seen a number of union mergers. In 2006, the textile workers’ union and the food workers’ union joined the metalworkers; the journalists (DJP) joined the non-manual private sector union the GPA; and Vida was formed through a merger of three unions, the railway workers’ union, the hotel and catering workers’ union and a transport workers union. In June 2009 the local government workers’ union merged with the union for culture and sport (KMSfB); and in November 2009 the GMNT is set to merge with the 29,000-strong chemical workers’ union creating a new union to be called pro.ge.


The ÖGB has reformed some of its structures, in part as a consequence of the financial difficulties at the union-owned bank BAWAG in 2006. Union finances were hit by the need to sell the bank to meet losses, and the ÖGB’s reputation, particularly in the economic and financial area, was damaged to some degree.


The ÖGB itself is not tied to a particular political party but it has close links to the parties through its system of political groupings, which have formal rights within the union structure. The biggest grouping is the FSG, linked to the social democrats (SPÖ), but there is also a powerful christian grouping the FCG .This has strong representation in the public sector, and is linked to the Austrian Peoples' Party (ÖVP). One of the vice-presidents of the ÖGB is the chair of the FCG, and the president of the GÖD union, which organises those employed by central government, is also a leading FCG member.


Trade union membership in Austria has been falling in recent years, at an annual rate of around 1.0%. However, the difficulties at BAWAG led to what the ÖGB described in its report to the 2009 congress as “an enormous loss of membership” in 2006. In that year, 63,000 members, some 5%, were lost. By 2008 membership had more or less stabilised and recruiting new members is now a top priority for the ÖGB.


[1] The ICTWSS Database: Database on Institutional Characteristics of Trade Unions,


Wage Setting, State Intervention and Social Pacts compiled Union membership statistics in 24 countries by JelleJelle Visser, at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies AIAS University of Amsterdampublished in Monthly Labor Review January 20069

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