Some of the ways European labor markets are reacting to the economic slowdown:
Europeans Rely on a Mix of Concessions to Save Jobs, by Mathew Saltmarsh, NY Times: Rising European unemployment has business and government looking to offset the pain, and some of the solutions belie the region’s reputation for inflexibility.
A report released ... by the European Union found that some 1.9 million jobs were lost in the first quarter, the worst drop since figures were first collected starting in 1995. The unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in April, up from 6.8 percent a year earlier.
But analysts and labor experts say the figures would have been even starker without some of the job-saving measures used to combat the worst recession in decades. ...
Many countries have short-time compensation programs, tailored for the manufacturing sector, under which employers can apply for temporary assistance to lift the wages of workers working reduced hours.
France has a publicly financed partial unemployment plan, allowing companies experiencing difficulties to temporarily lay off workers and draw on state money to pay them during those periods. ... In the Netherlands,... companies ... use... a similar program...
Germany also has several measures to reduce working time, many of which are specifically framed as employment-saving measures. ... German unions have also shown some flexibility. ...
In France, as in other European countries, employers are not normally allowed to lower contracted salaries without employee consent.
But if a business with operations in France has “serious grounds” to think that its economic viability is in danger, and employees refuse a reduced salary, then a company could proceed to layoffs.
To avoid this kind of situation, some companies have tried to negotiate salary reductions. The auto rental company Hertz ... asked French management ... to swallow a pay cut of around 5 percent over three months, without offsetting time off. Slightly more than two-thirds of the 150 managers offered the deal agreed... Hewlett-Packard ... confirmed that it was engaged in similar negotiations to cut the salaries ... ranging from 2.5 to 15 percent.
The Finnish carrier Finnair announced in December plans to temporarily lay off 1,700 cabin crew members on a staggered basis this year to cut costs. The layoffs will last two to three weeks a worker.