Luxembourg: Latest working life developments Q4 2018

A new government agenda on industrial action, a collective labour market agreement in the construction sector and the results of the Quality of Work Index study are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Luxembourg in the fourth quarter of 2018.

New government agenda on industrial action

The new government, elected in November 2018, signed a coalition agreement for the next legislative period (2018–2023) on 3 December 2018. Regarding industrial relations, the agreement puts the accent on a reform of social dialogue at the enterprise level that promotes collective agreements and tripartite social dialogue through an improved Permanent Committee for Labour and Employment.

In the public sector, the government intends to implement both the wage agreement of 2016 [1] and the supplementary clause of 2018 [2] that were signed with the civil servants’ union, the General Public Sector Confederation (CGFP). The 2016 agreement offered a wage increase of 1.5% from 1 January 2018 and enforced lifelong learning policies; it also promoted teleworking and strengthened psychosocial health risk prevention. The 2018 supplementary clause abolished wage reduction during the traineeship period for civil servants, which was an important issue of concern for the CGFP.

The government increased the minimum wage by €100 from 1 January 2019 and two additional leave days came into force: one additional day of paid leave and a new public holiday on 9 May. Both the wage indexation system and the automatic adaptation of the minimum wage to the general evolution of wages were maintained. With regard to the need to increase competences and skills through digitalisation processes, the government has adapted the legislative framework and reinforced enhanced labour mobility opportunities.

Social partners have voiced some concerns. The Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce [3] stressed the fact that small and medium-sized companies encounter difficulties in integrating new work–life balance tools into their organisations. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Luxembourg (OGBL) welcomed the preservation of wage indexation and the reinforcement of social dialogue. The OGBL [4] called for an additional minimum wage increase of 10% of the gross wage, arguing that the €100 increase is insufficient for low-income households.

Collective agreement signed in construction sector

After protracted negotiations, social partners signed a renewed collective labour market agreement on 4 December 2018 for 18,000 employees in the construction and civil engineering sector. Wages will increase by over 2% in the next three years – by 1% in 2019, 0.7% in 2020 and 0.7% in 2021 – and all employees will be given the right to training that leads to recognised qualifications. Administrative employees in the sector will receive two additional annual leave days.

Quality of Work Index study 2018

In November 2018, the Chamber of Employees of Luxembourg (CSL) published the initial results of the sixth wave of the Quality of Work Index study, which has been conducted annually since 2013 to measure the perceived satisfaction of workers with their employment and work–life balance. The study is based on a representative sample of 1,689 employees aged between 16 and 65 and working on a regular basis for at least 10 hours a week. The study was carried out in five languages – Luxembourgish, French, German, Portuguese and English – with 60% of the participants residing in Luxembourg and the remaining 40% being cross-border workers.

The index [5] saw a slight decrease from 55.7 in 2017 to 54.5 in 2018, but has generally remained stable over the past five years (with an index of 55.1 in 2014). The study shows a resurgence of the impact of psychosocial problems, such as burnout and mobbing, while positive aspects, such as participation in decision-making, feedback and autonomy, decreased. Notably, a lower level of autonomy in the workplace reflects existing conflicts between working time and personal time. The results highlight that when wage earners assume greater work responsibilities, they must also achieve objectives within tighter constraints relating to pace of work and deadlines. In addition, the use of digital control tools allows employers to monitor individuals and allocate tasks. Consequently, burnout risks and occupational health problems have a negative impact on motivation and job satisfaction.

Regarding work–life balance, the results show that the optimum weekly working time is 38.7 hours for men and 36.3 hours for women, compared with 43.7 hours of actual working time for men and 42.3 for women. The legal working time in Luxembourg is 40 hours per week. Participants identified both permanent working hours and protection against excessive working hours as being essential. The survey highlights the difficulty in finding a universal formula to match variable working time needs linked to different life cycles. Thus, the creation of flexible working time instruments, such as time‑saving accounts and teleworking could increase the flexibility of working time organisation.

The study revealed that the right to return to full-time work after a period of part-time work during which wage earners – notably women – bring up their children is vital for participants. Finally, the right to disconnect outside working hours has been shown to contribute to the prevention of increased health risks.

Commentary

The government has proposed an ambitious programme with a strong focus on work–life balance and a particularly urgent focus on the reform of work organisation in the context of digitalisation. While the main pillars of social dialogue remain unaltered and will not constitute a source of conflict, it remains to be seen whether social partners can agree on other government plans. With national social dialogue still dormant, the conclusion of a collective labour agreement in construction complemented key sectoral collective agreements in 2018 in banking and insurance – highlighting a broader tendency: a consensus at sectoral level is still achievable but will require more contentious bargaining processes.


Footnotes

  1. ^ CGFP (2016), Accord salarial , 5 December
  2. ^ CGFP (2018), Rapport d'activités 2017 , 8 March
  3. ^ Le Quotidien (2018), Une légère inquiétude , 12 December
  4. ^ L’essential (2018), L'OGBL évoque la «fracture sociale» et les frontaliers , 11 December
  5. ^ The Quality of Work Index describes the quality of work on a scale in absolute values between 0 (low quality) and 100 (high quality)

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