Austria: Increasing attacks on labor rights

Featured image: Office of the Chamber of Labor and the Austrian Trade Union Federation. Source: Rote Fahne

Rote Fahne has reported on some recent developments of the economic struggles of the workers in Austria. In the first quartal of the year there has been the most insolvencies since 2009, among them also a large number of bigger companies going bankrupt. The crisis is taken out on the workers: at the same time, there is increasing attacks against labor rights.

Among these attacks is the broadening of the maximum legal working time to 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week. This means longer work times and less resting time in many branches. The reason is to increase the degree of exploitation by the volume of surplus labor. Under the pretext of the pandemic, the right of the workers to privacy regarding their health was attacked through measures regarding illnesses that the workers must report. Firing workers has been made easier in general. In many branches which have traditionally enjoyed ”good” contracts, working conditions have worsened, especially through using temporary workers who have worse general agreements. The list of profession-related illnesses has been shortened and the health insurance covers less treatments. At the same time, more measures are taken against the unemployed, making their situation more desperate. In addition, alongside of the legal changes, there is also attacks in everyday practice. For example in healthcare it happens daily that the labor laws are not followed due to the staff shortage.

Parallel to the increasing attacks to the rights of the workers, the workers increasingly reject the elections of the Chamber of Labor (Arbeiterkammer, AK). This is an organization dominated by the social democrats which supposedly represents the legal interests of all of the workers in the Austrian system of corporativist ”Social Partnership”, and the membership is compulsory. This is separate from the labor unions, in which membership is voluntary. In the western federal States of Austria the elections of the AK have already been carried out. In Upper Austria the participation was around 35%, in Tyrol 39%, in Salzburg 34% and in Carinthia 32%. In 2000 the participation was still around 60% in Tyrol, and around 52% in Upper Austria and 50% in Carinthia. This shows clearly the crisis of Austrian imperialism, being not able to rule as before, while the masses increasingly rejects to be governed as before.

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