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Austria: social partners announce “general collective agreement” to support new national testing strategy
Planet Labor, 15 January 2021, n°12313 - www.planetlabor.com

On 9 January, following consultation with the heads of the Länder and social partners, the Austrian government announced the introduction of a new testing strategy that, in parallel with the national vaccination campaign, should make it possible to open to a greater extent establishments in sectors such as catering as well as sport and culture, while the current lockdown measures remain in place. This strategy, which involves maintaining social distancing and protective measures combined with the principle of “systematic testing on entry”, therefore directly concerns the world of work, in particular sectors and activities where customer contact is important and where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. Following on from this, the Austrian social partners negotiated a general collective agreement on in-company testing. The general collective agreement is an instrument that is rarely used in Austria; there are fewer than 10 such agreements in total, the last of which was signed in 1974. Such agreements are negotiated between unions and the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKÖ). They cover all areas in which the WKÖ has the power to negotiate collective agreements. In this case, the new general collective agreement on testing primarily concerns the catering, trade, personal services, education and logistics sectors, therefore applying to around 2,400 companies and 530,000 employees. Although the agreement now exists, it still needs to be supplemented and formulated in such a way as to avoid possible legal pitfalls. It is known that social partners want to introduce protections against dismissal for those who test positive. Furthermore testing will take place during working hours, even if it is carried out outside the workplace.