The union is demanding an 11 percent increase in salaries, more vacation and a discussion about a general reduction in working hours. The employers pointed to declining retail sales figures and declined to submit an offer on Thursday.
“As long as we are at these utopian heights and the union rejects all creative options for building bridges, such as one-off payments or taking into account the federal government’s income-enhancing measures, we see ourselves unable to make a concrete counteroffer. Because just throwing a number into the ring is too little. That doesn’t do justice to our sense of responsibility to preserve jobs,” explained trade chairman Rainer Trefelik in a broadcast on Thursday evening.
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After the first, fruitless round of negotiations on October 24th, the union tried to increase the pressure with works meetings. From November 2nd up to and including November 8th, company meetings took place in more than 250 retail establishments throughout Austria. The employee representatives not only want to achieve inflation compensation, but also an increase in real salaries. From October 2022 to September 2023, inflation was 9.2 percent. According to a flash estimate from Statistics Austria, consumer prices in October were 5.4 percent higher than a year ago.
But inflation is not only causing purchasing power to melt away: in the period from January to September 2023, retail in Austria recorded a nominal increase in sales of 3.7 percent compared to the same period last year, but in real terms – i.e. adjusted for prices – this amounts to a minus of 3. 5 percent.
Almost two thirds of the 430,000 retail employees in Austria are women; in retail the proportion of women is even higher. Almost 60 percent of women in retail work part-time, while the part-time rate for men is only around 13 percent.