- 19 Dec 2007
Impact of the working time directive on collective bargaining in the road transport sector — Belgium
This report summarises based on a questionnaire how the Belgian sector of road hauling implemented the EU working time directive for the road transport sector by collective agreements and new legislation. This implementation is discussed within a broader overview of the industrial relations of this sector in Belgium.
- 16 Nov 2007
Industrial relations in the postal sector — Belgium
This is the Belgian contribution to the comparative analytical overview on Industrial relations in the postal sector
- 12 Nov 2007
Belgium: Wage agreement signed in hotels and restaurant sector
In September 2007, the social partners from the hotels and restaurants sector finally signed a wage agreement, following months of preliminary talks, difficult negotiations and several strike actions. The strong wage demands put forward by the trade unions, to make employment in the sector more attractive, met with fierce opposition from the employer organisation representing fast-food restaurants.
- 05 Nov 2007
Belgium: Public sector professional unions cause a stir
Trade unions or associations representing professionals in the public sector gained increased recognition over the summer months. The Association of River Pilots struck a deal with the government in late August 2007 following industrial action, partly to improve its involvement in social dialogue. Meanwhile, four trade unions have gained recognition within the Belgian State Security Service sector, including the independent Trade Union of Belgian Police.
- 29 Oct 2007
Belgium: Low-cost carrier Ryanair threatens to suspend its flights
Following the airport’s security officers’ strike on 15–17 June 2007, Ryanair cancelled all its flights using Brussels South-Charleroi airport as of 12 November 2007. The airline calls on the Walloon government to prevent strikes from blocking all airport activities. This demand, trade unions say, undermines the airport workers’ right to strike. Although the social partners reached agreement, the provision of minimum public services during strike action was once again raised.
- 22 Oct 2007
Belgium: Social partners react to new government’s work programme
In the negotiations on the future work programme of the recently elected government, the social partners have expressed their concerns about the economy and its impact on the labour force. They are particularly concerned about a likely regionalisation of employment policies following demands from the Flemish parties. The employers have emphasised the importance of reducing state administration costs and of improving the efficiency of public services.
- 01 Oct 2007
Representativeness of the social partners: Agricultural sector – Belgium
The aim of this representativeness study is to identify the respective national and supranational actors (i.e. trade unions and employer organisations) in the field of industrial relations in the agriculture sector in Belgium. In order to determine their relative importance in the sector’s industrial relations, this study will, in particular, focus on their representational quality as well as on their role in collective bargaining.
- 20 Aug 2007
Belgium: Redundancy plan finalised in Opel-GM restructuring
After three months of industrial conflict, the management and trade unions at the Opel-GM car manufacturer in Antwerp reached an agreement on a redundancy plan with regard to the 2,200 workers who have to leave the plant. Some workers can take early retirement, while others can claim a generous redundancy settlement. The generosity of the agreement has raised controversy among the national social partners.
- 13 Aug 2007
Belgium: Supermarket giant to close 16 stores nationwide
The management of the French supermarket giant Carrefour has announced its intention to close 16 GB stores in Belgium. GB, a well-known network of supermarkets, was sold to the French group in July 2002. The closures will probably result in the loss of 900 jobs out of the 5,502 people employed at GB. Trade unions fear that these closures will give rise to new franchise stores with poorer working conditions.
- 06 Aug 2007
Belgium: One in four workers covered by new private sector agreement
One out of every four workers is now covered by the new sectoral agreement in the private sector. This is the situation just three months after the social partners concluded the new national intersectoral agreement for 2007–2008. The national wage standard is respected in the agreed pay increases. New efforts concerning training have been made. However, issues such as innovation and diversity have only been addressed to a limited extent in the newly-reached arrangements.
- 30 Jul 2007
Belgium: ArcelorMittal brings renewed hope to Walloon steel industry
The recently merged steel group ArcelorMittal is currently considering the possibility of maintaining the ‘hot phase’ of its site in the Liège region. Two years ago, the Arcelor group closed one of its blast furnaces and forecast the closure of the last one in 2009. However, due to a favourable economic context, along with pressure from trade unions and the Walloon government, the merged company is now willing to reconsider the decision taken two years before.
- 18 Jun 2007
Belgium: Controversy over proposed restrictions on right to strike in public service
In recent weeks, public transport users have been adversely affected by strike action in a number of services. A strike at Brussels Airport affected over 26,000 passengers, while people travelling to work were stranded at railway stations due to a strike by ticket inspectors, and another bus drivers’ protest disrupted bus services. As a result, some members of parliament proposed establishing a minimal service in public service companies. This constitutes an important and controversial subject for debate, particularly as some groups consider that it will pose a threat to the right to strike.
- 13 Jun 2007
Industrial relations developments 2006— Belgium
This record reviews the main industrial relations developments in Belgium during 2006.
- 04 Jun 2007
Belgium: Industrial action at Brussels Airport
March and April 2007 were marked by social unrest at Brussels Airport. Industrial action hampered the start of operations of the newly-created Brussels Airlines, resulting from the merger of SN Brussels and Virgin Express in November last year. Moreover, a one-day strike among security personnel and firefighters brought all airport activities to a halt in April. The workers called for better working conditions in relation to working time and/or pay benefits.
- 22 May 2007
Belgium: New regulations to extend Sunday shop opening hours
New regulations on Sunday shop opening hours, introduced by government, are causing tensions among the social partners in the retail sector. Previously, the social partners had shown a united front in rejecting the government plans. However, when the government went ahead with increasing the allowed number of Sunday openings a year, this united front crumbled, and the issue of wage compensation for the proposed Sunday openings came to the fore.
- 18 May 2007
Gender and career development — Belgium
Information is presented on how the industrial relations system in Belgium is concerned with the issue of gender and career development. Statistics are provided on occupational and sectoral distributions of employment. Policies on tackling vertical and horizontal segregation are summarized.
- 18 May 2007
Representativeness of the social partners: Telecommunications sector - Belgium
The aim of this sectoral representativeness study is to give a snapshot of the collective bargaining processes in the Telecommunications sector in Belgium. Tthe actors active at this level within the telecom sector (trade unions, employers association) have been involved in the elaboration of this study. In Belgium, half of the salaried workers covered by the telecom sector are Belgacom employees (the former public state-owned company). Currently (15 years after the privatisation of the sector) its social dialogue structure has particular features. Within the private sector, the collective bargaining process is carried on within the Joint Committee 218. This study aims to give information about the actors involved within these two separate collective bargaining structures.
- 14 May 2007
Belgium: European Court ruling over failure to transpose EU directive
Under the 2002 European directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees, EU Member States were granted a period of three years to adopt national measures in compliance with the directive. Although the official deadline was set for 23 March 2005, Belgium has not yet transposed the directive into its national legislation. As a result, the country was recently found guilty by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for its failure to comply with the directive. A critical issue which has prevented agreement and the directive’s transposition is workers’ representation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – an issue on which employer organisations and trade unions have adopted different stances.
- 03 May 2007
Belgium: Study claims social security system has deteriorated
A study published by the Antwerp Centre for Social Policy Research concludes that the Belgian welfare system has lost its top position in Europe and is at risk of declining into a minimal social security system. According to the study, the country’s poverty rate is now higher than previously, while the gap between the economically active and inactive population has widened over the last decade. The research team points to the fact that benefits have remained at the same low level, whereas income levels are rising. The study has provoked considerable reaction from social and political figures, generating fresh debates about the ageing of the population and regarding the future of social security funding.
- 23 Apr 2007
Belgium: Workers accept social plan following redundancies at Arjo Wiggins
In September 2006, the paper pulp manufacturer Arjo Wiggins Belgium announced the closure of one of its two Belgian sites and the mass redundancies of 147 permanent workers and 80 temporary workers. After a month of strikes and collective bargaining following the announcement, the social partners have finally reached an agreement on the proposal set out by the federal ombuds office. This agreement represents a step forward with regard to the rights of temporary workers and the status of manual workers.
- 10 Apr 2007
Belgium: Social partners conclude intersectoral agreement for 2007-2008
In December 2006, the social partners in the private sector agreed a comprehensive national intersectoral agreement for the period 2007–2008. The agreement contains an extensive range of measures in relation to recommendations for the future and new provisions regarding wages and working conditions.
- 10 Apr 2007
Belgium: Atypical collective agreement concluded in textiles sector
Due to sector-specific financial problems regarding the social benefit system, the textiles sector concluded a national collective agreement on 30 November 2006 – well before the other sectors had done so and in advance of the national intersectoral ‘pace-setting’ agreement being finalised. Another unusual feature of the collective agreement in the textiles sector is that it covers a four-year period rather than the normal two years.
- 19 Mar 2007
Belgium: Employer federation cautions against regionalisation of employment policies
In February 2007, the Belgian Federation of Employers (FEB/VBO) set out its demands in advance of the forthcoming federal elections and parliamentary period 2007–2011. FEB/VBO’s proposals stipulate the parameters within which it would like to see state reforms taking place, as well as outlining recommendations for building a more dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy.
- 12 Mar 2007
Belgium: Legislation on workplace harassment amended
On 30 November 2006, the Belgian federal parliament voted in favour of a major revision of the legislation on protection from violence, moral harassment (bullying) and sexual harassment at the workplace. The amended legislation puts greater focus on prevention measures, strengthens the role of in-house mediators, the person of trust, and clarifies the clause regarding employment protection.
- 08 Mar 2007
Belgium: Job losses and restructuring at Volkswagen plant
In January 2007, work recommenced at the Volkswagen (VW) plant at Forest in the Brussels region, following seven weeks of strike action which had paralysed production at the plant. At issue is the transfer of production of the Golf model to Germany and the announcement of job cuts of almost three quarters of the plant’s workforce. The return to work marks the end of two months’ negotiations with regard to the restructuring of the plant. In total, about 2,000 workers will opt for voluntary redundancy, while around 950 workers will be entitled to take early retirement. However, approximately 2,200 workers will continue to work at the site. The remaining workers will probably be made redundant.
- 19 Feb 2007
Belgium: Agreement reached in French-speaking education sector following strike action
In early November 2006, the Minister for Education in Belgium’s French-speaking community proposed a draft collective agreement in the education sector for 2007–2008. Negotiations followed between the minister and representatives of the teachers’ trade unions. The trade unions were asking for a wage increase for all teachers and the recruitment of more teachers to provide extra support for students in the first years of secondary school. However, the community’s limited budgetary resources do not allow for such measures to be introduced in the immediate future.
- 19 Feb 2007
Belgium: New regulations permit theft control of employees
From January 2007, Belgian employers are entitled to screen people for theft on leaving the company’s premises. This followed consensus among the social partners on 18 October 2006; their recommendations formed a new intersectoral agreement, which was subsequently transposed into law.
- 12 Feb 2007
Belgium: Unions ban extreme right-wing party members
At the end of October 2006, around 100 members and supporters of the extreme right-wing party Vlaams Belang took part in a demonstration in Liederkerke in the province of Flemish-Brabant. The demonstration was called in reaction to the expulsion of a member of the socialist trade union, the Belgian General Federation of Labour, who was a Vlaams Belang candidate in the municipal elections of the town.
- 12 Feb 2007
Belgium: Unions sign new intersectoral public sector agreement
In September 2006, the 2005–2006 intersectoral agreement for the public sector was signed by the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions and the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium. However, the socialist trade union, the Belgian General Federation of Labour, refused to sign the agreement, which covers all civil servants at federal, regional, local and municipal levels.
- 25 Jan 2007
Belgium: New law gives redundancy protection to employee representatives
In a new decree, the Court of Arbitration in Belgium has ruled that employee representatives will retain their redundancy protection if they resign from office. This reinforcement of redundancy protection for employee representatives comes at a time when some notable legal cases against participants in strike action are pending.
- 25 Jan 2007
Belgium: Social partners put forward demands in negotiations for intersectoral agreement
In the autumn of 2006, the main social partners were due to enter into negotiations aimed at concluding an intersectoral agreement for the period 2007–2008. In anticipation of the imminent negotiations, the trade unions, and to a lesser extent the employer organisations, outlined their main demands during September and October 2006.
- 25 Jan 2007
Belgium: Agreement at Belgian National Railways satisfies union demands
In October 2006, a meeting between the trade unions and management of Belgian National Railways discussed the demands put forward by the unions. Dissatisfied with its outcome, the unions threatened a 24-hour strike, planned for 8 November 2006. However, on 30 October, agreement was reached between the company’s management and the trade unions in relation to union concerns around the issues of under-staffing, sub-contracting and profit-sharing.
- 11 Jan 2007
Belgium: Measures to combat illegal work among migrants in construction sector
Since June 2006, migrants from eastern Europe have been able to obtain employment in a number of sectors in Belgium. In particular, the number of migrant workers engaged in construction work has increased considerably and this is expected to rise even further. As a result, new measures have been introduced in an effort to stamp out illegal work among migrants.