Led by AK Lower Austria (NÖ) President Markus Wieser and WK Lower Austria President Sonja Zwazl, Lower Austria’s social partners came to Brussels on 19th and 20th February 2020 to jointly highlight central issues and problem areas before high level representatives of the most important EU institutions and to illustrate the need for action at European level.
Apart from the Presidents of the Chamber of Labour NÖ and Chair of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) NÖ, Markus Wieser and Sonja Zwazl (President of the Economic Chamber of Lower Austria), the Director of the Chamber of Labour NÖ, Bettina Heise and ÖGB State Secretary Christian Farthofer also belonged to the delegation of the Lower Austrian social partners. Apart from representatives of the European Commission, representatives of the European social partners and the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU, an exchange took place with MEPs Evelyn Regner and Othmar Karas.
Fighting wage- and social dumping
A key issue, which was presented by Markus Wieser und Sonja Zwazl, concerns wage- and social dumping. The border between Lower Austria and newer EU Member States with a lower wage level is 441 kilometres long and especially in immediate border areas this presents a ubiquitous problem. Hence, since 2011, more than 800 complaints have been filed due to sub wages, which resulted in res judicata decisions in more than half of the cases. In 2019 alone, fines totalling ca. 2.4 million Euro were imposed in Austria. Ca. 60 % of res judicata decisions due to sub wages concern non-Austrian companies.
Efficient European Labour Authority
The fight against this unfair competition at the expense of companies and their workforce above all requires improved cross-border cooperation by authorities. The European Labour Authority, which will soon relocate from Brussels to Bratislava, is an important first step; however, its competences should` be expanded. Apart from that, it should be enshrined in law that the collection of security deposits is legally possible. Deterrent fines should also be possible in case of multiple violations of laws. The retrieval capabilities of enforcement staff regarding whether social security payments were correctly made in the respective country of origin, should also be improved.
Fair taxation of online trading
The regulations of corporate taxation are clearly outdated against the background of digitisation and new companies of the digital economy. Concerning this issue, the Lower Austrian social partners jointly pointed out that shifting profits to low tax countries is possible without causing a problem. Apart from that, the effective tax rates in the digital economy are half of what they are in the traditional economy. That is why AK NÖ and WK NÖ are jointly advocating for promoting the model of the digital shop committee. The current discussions on taxing the profits of multinational corporations at OECD level should be used in the same way to ensure that internationally acting digital companies will be subject to fairer taxation.
Beta-Campus Waidhofen on the Ybbs
Finally, the social partners in Brussels presented a Lower Austrian flagship project: The Beta-Campus Waidhofen an der Ybbs is a regional model for continuing economic development, innovation and securing skilled personnel. The project unites the subjects Living-Learning-Working-Innovation-Networking in seven areas: living for young skilled personnel, exhibition space for regional companies, low and high-tech workshops, co-working and parking spaces, seminar and training facilities, a gastro- and event area – not to forget the Polytechnic School, which also finds a home in the Campus of the future.