Loss of income, precarious employment and working conditions, decline in quality in respect of labour intensive services: these are the first results of a study on privatising public services commissioned by the Commission.
A first draft of a study on the Privatisation of Public Services and the Impact on Quality, Employment and Productivity was introduced this week in Brussels. This project was commissioned by the European Commission. The study was prepared by the so-called PIQUE Consortium, which among others is associated with the Viennese Institute FORBA (Working Life Research Centre) and the German Hans Böckler Foundation.

The study examined the four sectors energy, postal services, local passenger traffic and national health services in six countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Great Britain).

The results of the study were sobering: it emerged that in case of sectors, which had been liberalised and where public sectors had been privatised competition did not significantly intensify nor did the number of companies working in this area rise. The market concentration remained the same, in some cases it even increased.

The areas examined showed that the number of employees working for energy suppliers and postal services had decreased in recent years, whereas a slight increase could be noticed for local passenger traffic. A significant rise in employment figures though became apparent in the health sector. However, a transformed type of employment went hand in hand with a change in employment quality: atypical und precarious forms of employment were on the increase. Mini jobs, short term contracts and part time jobs are now regular employment options chosen by companies. 60 % of all employees working for German private postal companies have mini jobs; less than 20 % are in full-time employment. In case of Deutsche Post it is almost the other way round: over 60 % have a full-time job and only about 5 % of the workforce has a mini job.

The development of wages and salaries can be shown by the example of the energy sector: In Belgian energy companies, starting salaries are up to 34 % below of those employment contracts, which were concluded until 2002. In Austria, starting salaries - compared to 2001 - have decreased by 13 %. The only exception is Poland: due to a lack of skilled workers, salaries have in fact increased.

Working conditions have also deteriorated: overtime has risen, flexible working arrangements are now increasingly being used and the work intensity and the working pressure has increased.

The results of the PIQUE project will be presented as part of an event hosted by the Federal Chamber of Labour Vienna in cooperation with FORBA under the title “Good jobs for good services” with special focus on Austria on 24th April 2009 in Vienna.