White-collar unions oppose reform of representativeness rules

Download article in original language : LU0202102NFR.DOC

In January 2002, three trade unions representing private sector white-collar employees in Luxembourg joined forces to oppose a proposal by the Minister of Labour to redefine the criteria for assessing the 'nationally representative' status of unions. The three unions also plan to create a single organisation for private sector white-collar staff.

In October 2001, the Minister of Labour presented a draft bill redefining the concept of the 'representativeness ' of trade unions (representative status brings unions various rights, such as concluding collective agreements) (LU0111102F). The move was a response to court rulings which overturned existing practice by awarding a sectoral trade union - the Luxembourg Association of Banking and Insurance Staff (Association luxembourgeoise des employés de banque et d'assurance, ALEBA) - nationally representative status (LU0011152F). The reform would, in certain conditions, allow sectoral unions to negotiate collective agreements.

On 16 January 2002, the three unions representing white-collar employees in the private sector responded by adopting a joint position opposed to the draft reform, describing it as a 'declaration of war on the employment status of private sector white-collar employees'. The three unions are ALEBA, the Confederation of Private Sector White-Collar Employees/National Union of Private Sector White-Collar Employees - Reformist (Confédération des employés privés/Syndicat national des employés privés-Rénovateurs, COEP/SNEP-R) and the Union of Private Sector White-Collar Employees (Union des employés privés, UEP).

The unions claim that the Minister's intention in the proposed reform is solely to try to relieve ALEBA of the nationally representative status it has recently been awarded by the administrative courts. By seeking to award nationally representative status in future only to unions representing both private-sector white-collar staff and blue-collar workers, the Minister, it is claimed, has 'anointed' the two 'political' unions - 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) - 'awarding them enduring privileges and undeniable predominance'.

The three white-collar unions state their firm intention to fight together against a reform that would be 'contrary to rights enshrined in the Constitution to be able to choose one's trade union freely'. They will seek to amend the terms of the draft legislation in the course of discussions to be held with the Minister, and 'by appealing for cooperation from the political parties'.

Finally, it was announced that the three unions, together with others, will try to set up a single trade union organisation for white-collar workers in the private sector. Initially, this will involve joint campaigning at the next 'social elections' of employee representatives (LU9810172F) scheduled for 2003.

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