New collective agreement signed in banking

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In July 2002, a new two-year collective agreement for the Luxembourg banking sector was signed, but by only one of the industry's three representative trade unions, ALEBA. It takes account of a proposal from the chair of the National Conciliation Office, made after initial talks broke down.

In October 2001, the three representative trade unions in the Luxembourg banking sector - the Luxembourg Association of Bank Staff (Association luxembourgeoise des employés de banque, ALEBA), the Luxembourg Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (Onofhängege Gewerkschafts-Bond Lëtzebuerg, OGB-L) and the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtleche Gewerkschafts-Bond, LCGB) - tabled a single set of demands for the renewal of the banking collective agreement (LU0110107F). Following a period of difficult relations between the unions (LU0011152F), in issuing united demands they stressed their solidarity and their wish to work together in their members' interests. Boosted by their new found unity, the unions demanded a substantial pay increase, and the abolition of the system of paying salaries based on performance criteria (LU9706113N).

The president of the Luxembourg Association of Banks and Bankers (Association des banques et banquiers du Luxembourg, ABBL) stated that the unions’ demands were 'out of proportion and unrealistic', and represented an increase of approximately 30% over three years.

After several rounds of fruitless talks, a meeting took place at the National Conciliation Office (Office National de Conciliation, ONC) on 8 May 2002. When the permanent members of the ONC were unable to reach a joint decision, its chair took the unusual step of submitting to the social partners a 'chair's proposal' that involved a 'transitional' one-year collective agreement, retrospectively granting a basic pay increase of 1.05%, and a further increase of 0.55% earmarked for the performance bonus for 2002.

This proposal was then presented to the social partners’ various consultative bodies, where it triggered an unexpected degree of discord. OGB-L and LCGB said they were in favour of the proposal, despite the fact that they found it unsatisfactory, as it made it possible for a fresh round of bargaining to commence immediately. However, the ALEBA delegates decided not to accept the ONC chair's proposal but to resume talks with the employers on 24 June 2002. OGB-L organised a protest demonstration outside the ALEBA head office, deploring the fact that the trade unions had failed to agree among themselves in a vital sector of the Luxembourg economy. However, LCGB unexpectedly attended the meeting on 24 June, saying that it would be wrong to close the door on a resumption of social dialogue.

At the meeting, the participants negotiated a new proposal for a two-year agreement. In the first year, the pay provisions mirror the ONC chair’s proposal, while in the second there will be a review of pay scales in the framework of a one-off 1.65% increase in total paybill. Both ALEBA and LCGB indicated their agreement in principle to this deal, but in the end only ALEBA signed the new collective agreement with ABBL on 22 July. At the eleventh hour, LCGB indicated that it was refusing to sign on the grounds that the new agreement would prevent 40% of staff from receiving a pay rise at all in 2003.

To complicate matters further, the ALEBA section at Banque Générale, one of Luxembourg’s three main banks, announced on 24 July 2002 that it was in the process of negotiating an 'improved agreement' with the employer.

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