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Trade Unions

Austria has a single trade union confederation, the ÖGB, to which 27% of all employees belong. 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 1.2 million trade union members in Austria (2018).[1] Around a fifth of them are retired and figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership put union density in Austria at 26.7% in 2017.[2]  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 separate unions, representing manual and non-manual workers in different parts of the economy. Following a series of union mergers, in 2006 and 2009, the number of separate unions has fallen from 13 in 2005 to seven currently.

 

These are: the GPA-djp (non-manual private sector) with 280,633 members; the GÖD (central government and some other public sector) with 251,136 members; PRO-GE (largely manual workers in manufacturing) with 237,075; the younion (formerly GdG-KMSfB), which largely represents local government workers, with 146,065 members; Vida (transport and services) with 133,678; GBH (construction and the wood industry) with 117,865 and GPF (post and telecommunications) with 45,013. (All membership figures are for the end of December 2018.)

 

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 People's Party (ÖVP). An example of the strength of the FCG is that in 2019 the chair of the FCG was Norbert Schnedl, one of the vice-presidents of the ÖGB and the head of the GÖD, the second largest union in Austria.

 

Trade union membership in Austria had been falling slowly, with a large dip of around 5% in 2006, following difficulties at the union-owned bank BAWAG. However, the year-end figures since 2016 have shown slight increases – up 0.36% in 2016, 0.40% in 2017 and 0.48% in 2018.[3] Recruiting new members is now a top priority for the ÖGB.

 

Women make up 36.1% of total ÖGB membership. This figure from 2018 is the highest since the foundation of the ÖGB in 1945.[4]

[1] The precise figure is 1,211,465. For this and figures for individual unions see ÖGB Mitgliederstatistik gesamt nach Gewerkschaften 2018

[2] J. Visser, ICTWSS Database. version 6.0. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), University of Amsterdam. June 2019

[3] ÖGB Mitgliederstatistik und Mitgliederbewegung seit 1945, https://www.oegb.at/cms/S06/S06_2.1.2/ueber-uns/wir-machen/oegb-in-zahlen (Accessed 17.07.2019)

[4] Ibid

L. Fulton (2020) National Industrial Relations, an update. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.