New collective agreement for hospitals

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At the end of February 1997, the social partners in Luxembourg's hospital sector concluded a new collective agreement in a "cooperative" atmosphere. The deal provides for pay increases and a reduction and reorganisation of working hours for 5,000 employees.

From the turn of the century, labour law in Luxembourg has been characterised by a gradual convergence between regulations affecting blue-collar and white-collar workers. This alignment culminated in a single piece of legislation on employment contracts which came into force on 24 May 1989. Collective agreements have also followed suit, and the renegotiation of the agreement in the hospital sector is incorporated into a single document.

Although collective bargaining in the hospital sector is often characterised by much animosity, the latest negotiations were carried out, according to both sides, "in a cooperative spirit". The new collective agreement covers a three-year period beginning on 1 February 1997 and expiring on 31 January 2000. Its main provisions relate to pay increases and a reduction and reorganisation of working time.

Pay increases

The deal provides for increases in basic pay as follows:

  • 0.35% from 1 January 1997;
  • 0.35% from 1 January 1998;
  • 0.35% from 1 January 1999; and
  • 0.35% from 1 January 2000.

It also includes a staged increase in the end-of-year bonus - which currently accounts for 50% of monthly pay - at the following rates:

  • 80% of monthly pay in December 1997;
  • 90% of monthly pay in December 1999; and
  • 100% of monthly pay in December 2000.

The above changes reflect those implemented as a result of a recent law affecting the salaries of civil servants.

Working time cuts

The new hospitals collective agreement also reduces working time. Luxembourg has a very rigid legal system based around a 40-hour week and there is little scope on the part of employers to reduce working time. Working hours on a daily basis are in theory limited to eight hours, but it is permitted, under certain conditions, to work for 10 hours per day over a reference period varying from 14 days to one year, depending on local circumstances. In the event of opting for such a reference period, which in principle must be approved by the Minister for Labour and Employment, daily working time exceeding eight hours is compensated by time off during the period, and does not give entitlement to normal overtime pay premia of 25% for manual workers and 50% for private employees.

For 1997, the social partners in the hospital sector did not agree to a reduction in working hours but limited themselves to providing a single increase of 2.5 days of additional leave. For subsequent years the following reductions of working time were agreed:

  • 2.5% in 1998;
  • 1.25% in 1999; and
  • 1.25% in 2000.

The number of annual working hours in the hospital sector currently amounts to 2,080, and this will now fall to 1,976 by the year 2000.

The statutory reference periods referred to above give the social partners a certain degree of freedom to organise working time, providing it does not exceed 10 hours in any one day. The hospital sector has always calculated hours and pay on a monthly basis, but now the reference periods will no longer be calculated by means of simple reference to calendar months, but can be adapted according to the needs of the enterprise or the wishes of the staff.

Apart from the 12 reference periods per year which are fixed by a joint committee, the various institutions now have the freedom, after agreement with their work committees, to define monthly reference periods according to their own needs. The only proviso in such a case is that the number of working hours must not exceed a pre-defined maximum in the year and must fall within a maximum and minimum monthly range. This agreement is the first case where working time has been calculated on an annualised basis.

The new agreements also contains a re-examination of overtime premium payments and extra payments for additional work during weekends.

There are 10 statutory national holidays per year in the Grand-Duchy. The following provisions apply: if any of these national holidays should fall on a Sunday, another holiday will be granted to compensate for it; and if it falls on a day where an employee does not usually work, he or she has the right to take a day off in lieu within three months. Employees not working on national holidays are entitled to the pay they would have received for working normal hours on that day, while employees who do work on are entitled to payment for hours worked, plus a 100% supplement. The hospitals agreement provides that 10 days of statutory or collectively agreed holidays will be re-classified as "normal" holidays, though the normal pay premia will still be payable for any hours worked on these days.

The contracting parties will also meet within the framework of a joint committee in order to analyse the repercussions that all these measures will have on employment levels and recruitment.

Finally, the social partners have also set up a consultative body which will deal with training in the hospital sector.

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