The Economic and Social Partnership
For many years there have been no major strikes in Austria, although the law prohibits the authorities from impeding strike action and protects the individual striker from any kind of legal reprisals. Austria owes its internationally acclaimed climate of stability first and foremost to the smooth running of the Economic and Social Partnership. This system works on the principle of involving both employers and employees in the preparation and implementation of economic measures, with overall economic priorities as the supreme consideration.
The most important vehicle of the Economic and Social Partnership is the Parity Commission on Wages and Prices. This body came into being and continues to work on a purely voluntary basis, without any basis in legislation. It is made up of the following institutions: the Austrian Trade Union Federation, the Federal Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Presidential Conference of the Chambers of Agriculture, and representatives of the Federal Ministries concerned. The Commission is chaired by the Federal Chancellor. All applications for price and wage increases are submitted to the Commission, which then deals with them. The Commission's recommendations are not binding on any of the parties, but the representative organisations pledge to pursue their implementation in their spheres of influence.
This form of partnership could not work unless the sections of the working population concerned did not belong virtually en bloc to their representative organisations. Membership of the chambers of commerce, labour and agriculture is obligatory, while trade union membership is voluntary.
Unlike in countries with separate trade union organisations that often compete with each other, Austria's fourteen unions, each covering a different economic sector, belong to a single umbrella organisation, the Austrian Trade Union Federation. Within the chambers and the unions, the political parties are free to perform their democratic functions.