The Federal Chamber of Labour represents the interests of 3.2 million employees and consumers in Austria. Together with the nine Chambers of Labour in each Austrian province, the following main tasks are fulfilled:
- Fundamental research for the benefit of workers and consumers
The Chambers of Labour employ a staff of highly qualified experts who act as a think-tank for employees' interests, conducting studies on a wide range of relevant issues. The Chambers of Labour thus always have an up-to-date scientific basis for effective policy-making on behalf of employees.
They closely co-operate with the other Austrian Social Partners in conducting and publishing joint studies on social and economic issues. The results of these studies feature prominently in Austria's political discourse and frequently serve as policy guidelines.
- Participation in and control of legislation
It is through the Chambers of Labour that Austrian employees and consumers participate in the legislative process. The Chambers of Labour evaluate draft legislation from the point of view of employees' interests, make proposals for amendments and are subsequently involved in the implementation of these laws. Often impulses for legislative initiatives emanate from the Chambers of Labour and their experts, whose research continually underlines the need for legislative action.
The Chambers of Labour offer a wide range of services to their members. The Chambers of Labour´s experts provide information and advice on different issues such as labour law, social insurance, tax law, women's and family policy, worker protection, the protection of apprentices and young workers, unemployment insurance, and consumer protection. In labour-law disputes between employees and employers the Chambers of Labour provide legal assistance ranging from oral or written interventions with employers to free representation of employees before the Labour and Social Tribunals. Education and culture are another mainstay of the Chambers of Labour´s service activities. They provide considerable sums of money for education, vocational training and further education as well as the training of officials in the labour movement, and organise exhibitions, film screenings, theatre performances and concerts
- International presentation
At the European level, the Chamber of Labour has delegated representatives to the European Economic Social Committee and various committees and advisory bodies dealing with issues of social and education policy.
In accordance with Austria's federal structure, there is a separate Chamber of Labour in each of the nine Federal Provinces. The Vienna Chamber of Labour also functions as the administrative body of the Federal Chamber of Labour, which is the umbrella organisation of the nine regional Chambers. The Federal Chamber of Labour is in charge of all tasks of relevance to all of Austria, or to several Provinces. Both the regional Chambers and the Federal Chamber of Labour are self-governing public corporations.
All employees, apprentices, persons on maternity (paternity) leave, as well as the unemployed are subject to compulsory membership; civil servants and agricultural workers are exempt. Total membership is 3.2 million. The Chambers of Labour also represent the interests of retired employees.
In each Province a General Assembly, a kind of employees' parliament, is elected by equal, direct and secret ballot for a period of five years. All Chamber of Labour members are entitled to vote. The most important political groups are the Social Democratic Unionists (FSG), the conservative Austrian Workers' Federation (ÖAAB), and the Freedomite Employees.
Each regional Chamber of Labour is headed by a President, who is elected by the General Assembly. The President by statute represents the Chamber of Labour in all matters. He/she is supported by the Vice-Presidents, the Executive Board and expert committees.
The elected political officials are supported by the so-called Chamber offices, whose staff provides the services, both technical and administrative, which the Chambers of Labour require to fulfil their statutory functions. Staff members include experts from all fields of economic, social and educational policy, who do research, evaluate draft legislation and draw up legislative proposals. In total, the Chambers of Labour employ a staff of about 2,400 persons. Of these, around 1/4 work for the Vienna Chamber of Labour, whose office also serves the Federal Chamber of Labour.
The financial basis of this entire structure is the so-called "Chamber of Labour levy" amounting to 0.5% of all members' gross wages or salaries up to a certain maximum basis of assessment. More than 80% of these funds are spent on direct services to Chamber of Labour members.