WageIndicator Gazette 18 - April 2008

WageIndicators alternative for trade unions? ** Input for collective bargaining across sectors in the EU ** Global Wage Trend Report to draw on WageIndicator dataset ** Foreign firms generally pay more ** Korea-record: 1 completed questionnaire cost  50 eurocents **

WageIndicators as Lighthouses
Trade unions are on the decline in traditional industries and public sectors. Moreover individuals with enough market power do without collective organization and those with too little are not capable of it. This bleak future was painted by professor Jelle Visser - University of Amsterdam - in his contribution to the global WageIndicator event on April 16th in Amsterdam. Visser argued that there is room for an instrument like the WageIndicators to step in.

As unions do, Visser said, WageIndicators have a lighthouse function: they signal information for all, but they are not necessarily publicly paid. A WageIndicator provides signals to users about the wage norm or standard rate for particular jobs, or may identify pay gaps. This function of WageIndicators requires collective - but not coordinated - action. Therefore they may be easier to set up under conditions where unions have difficulties organizing. The only function WageIndicators cannot take over from the unions is the actual collective bargaining. But they may deliver input for the process, Visser concluded.

Global Wage Trend Report to draw on WageIndicator dataset
Manuela Tomei during the WageIndicator Conference - April 16 - pointed out its potential contribution to the ILO-Global Wage Trend Report. Tomei, who heads the Conditions of Work and Employment Programme in Geneva, highlighted WageIndicator’s updated data on prevailing market wages, its easy access, wide dissemination and participatory approach - no problem of free-rider. It provides occupation specific data, which are internationally comparable. All this makes the potential contribution to the Global Wage Trend Report very valuable, she insisted.

WageIndicator may also help to eventually bridge the statistical divide between industrialized and developing countries. And anyhow, even in industrialized countries, more transparency is needed, Tomei said. This is key to an effective dialogue between employers and employees. To avoid the deadlock Tomei expressed as: “I don’t believe your dodgy data, and my data says the opposite”, but create trust instead.

Foreign firms generally pay more
Multinational enterprises (MNEs) and local firms are compared already since 2 years, using the datasets from WageIndicators in the Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil. The first, tentative conclusion is: foreign firms generally pay more and offer better labour conditions, but try to abstain from the local bargaining traditions. This means f.e. that trade union membership of their personnel is not encouraged – to say the least.

These first findings based on WageIndicator are in line with earlier macro-analyses and case studies. Professor Rob van Tulder of the Erasmus university - Rotterdam - hastened to add in his contribution to the global WageIndicator conference - April 16 - event, that the number of observations is still too small for firm conclusions - but more are coming in ‘as we speak’. However in all known cases there seems to arise a delicate balance between ‘host country standard’ and ‘MNE standard’. Yet they behave differently in different countries, adapt to a certain extent, but don’t blend in completely.

Korea-record: completed questionnaire costs 50 eurocents
Given a fully operational national WageIndicator and a dedicated marketing effort, valid questionnaires can be had at the price of 50 eurocents each. This has been proven by wageindicator.co.kr, as Cho Yongwo of JobKorea convincingly demonstrated on April 16th in Amsterdam.

The Korean approach concentrated on 2 months early 2008, during which data intake reached record levels each day, consistently surpassing levels in other participating countries thus far. The result was over 7000 submitted questionnaires at the cost of € 2700 - used to upgrade the website at the eve of the campaign - and for an additional € 1000 of prize money, spent on the purchase of some 50 gadgets to give away.

Input for collective bargaining across sectors in the EU
Bargaining issues in Europe is the title of a recent study based on the WageIndicator web-survey. It demonstrates its possibilities for applied social research in the service of trade unions. The study ranks 13 industries across 9 EU-member states. Its focus is on low pay: who and in what sectors? Criteria used were working time, pay, training, collective bargaining coverage and stress due to work. In 3 industries workers appear to be most vulnerable: 1. hotels/restaurants/catering. 2. agriculture. 3. wholesale/retail. Also the study points out that mostly women are paid low, as well as workers with long working hours. This is the kind of concrete information trade union officials need while preparing the next round of collective bargaining. Precisely at the level where the agreements are concluded: industries. Bargaining Issues in Europe is written by Maarten van Klaveren and Kea Tijdens, University of Amsterdam. Buy the book at the ETUI-website.

Ten labour market indicators for 75 countries, that is the content of the first launch of WorkIndicators.org. More countries and more global labour market indicators are expected soon. See WorkIndicators.org .

WageIndicator Conference reports
Reports from more then 20 presentations of the third Global WageIndicator Conference, Amsterdam April 15/16, can be downloaded.

Win a trip to Africa! An exciting opportunity offered by all WageIndicator-countries. A smart offer. Good for the WageIndicator project, great for the winners and a nice opportunity for AbangAfrica to offer their environmentally responsible tours and packages. Africa looks forwards to welcoming you!

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