Questions raised over individual jobseeker agreement

The Luxembourg Chamber of Private Sector Employees and the Chamber of Trades have expressed reservations about a new tool for tackling unemployment. As part of ‘Law 5611’ of 22 December 2006 promoting job retention, the government has introduced the requirement for jobseekers and for the Employment Administration to sign an agreement outlining the assistance given to unemployed persons, as well as defining certain rights and obligations.

‘Individualised’ activation

The Labour Code in Luxembourg now stipulates that the Employment Administration (Administration de l’Emploi, ADEM) must offer an ‘individualised’ activation agreement to every jobseeker who comes to register at a job centre. The purpose of the agreement is to attribute greater responsibility to both parties. The new measure also introduces penalties in the event that the agreement is not complied with. This tool for tackling unemployment has been introduced through ‘Law 5611’ of 22 December 2006 promoting job retention (LU0610019I).

The Luxembourg Chamber of Private Sector Employees (Chambre des Employés Privés Luxembourg, CEP-L) has examined the draft regulation, at the request of the Ministry of Labour and Employment (Ministère du travail et de l’emploi). CEP-L highlighted from the start that this individualised support will only be successful if ADEM is first given the material and human resources it needs to deal with each case in depth. This is particularly important as the content of the agreement will be both subject to modification and adaptable to the qualifications of individual jobseekers, their employability and labour market requirements.

Services available

CEP-L questions what further practical help the administration will be able to offer jobseekers. It points out that the forms of help listed – provision of interactive terminals at which job vacancies can be consulted, use of a reception and advice structure, and free publication of the jobseeker’s profile – add nothing to the services currently available.

Concept of ‘appropriate effort’

The agreement also determines the obligations of the jobseeker. In particular, these relate to jobseekers making an ‘appropriate effort’ in their search for work and keeping their job centre contact informed about their efforts. CEP-L believes that this concept of appropriate effort needs to be treated cautiously in the Luxembourg context, where it is difficult for less highly skilled people to find employment. The trade union notes that positive economic conditions primarily benefit cross-border workers – commuting from neighbouring countries – and the more skilled jobseekers resident in Luxembourg. Finding work is thus not so much to do with effort as with the range of available jobs, which fails to reflect the employability of some jobseekers. Moreover, finding work is also influenced by the specific profile of the Luxembourg labour market, where over two thirds of newly created jobs are taken by cross-border workers.

Guaranteeing jobseekers’ rights

In the opinion of CEP-L, numerous questions remain unanswered.

  • If the agreement is subject to modification, who can take the initiative of modifying it?
  • If the jobseeker asks for a current agreement to be modified, how should ADEM respond to this request?
  • If ADEM rejects the modification, will the jobseeker have any right of appeal?
  • Conversely, can jobseekers refuse the modification of their agreement by ADEM?

The trade union believes that it is vital to specify and formally guarantee the rights of the jobseeker, who – like a worker in an employment relationship – is in an inferior position in terms of power relations compared with the other party to the contract. Jobseekers should not be at the mercy of potentially arbitrary treatment of their aspirations and their freedom to choose their own career.

Responsibility of job-seekers

The Chamber of Trades (Chambre des Métiers), which also gave its opinion on the draft regulation, likewise criticises the text’s lack of precision, mainly with regard to the measures planned to increase the responsibility of the jobseeker. The employer organisation believes that the agreement is vague about the efforts to be made in the search for work, and therefore fails to establish any genuine obligations. For the Chamber of Trades, the proposal suggests that ADEM will in future be the key partner in the activation contract, and will be given more responsibility for activating the people concerned.

The agreement was to enter into force in July 2007, but the regulation determining the content of the activation agreement had not yet been published at that stage.

Odette Wlodarski, Prevent

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