Luxembourg: Latest working life developments – Q3 2017
A new tripartite deal in the steel sector, time-saving accounts in the public and private sector, and a possible fiscal reform for married cross-border workers are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Luxembourg in the third quarter of 2017.
Tripartite agreement in the steel industry
In September 2017, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Luxembourg (OGBL) and the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LCGB), the government, and ArcelorMittal – the largest employer in the industrial sector with 4,500 employees, signed the Lux2019 agreement for the steel sector. This replaced the previous agreement which ended in 2016.
Negotiated over a long period and not without difficulties, the goal of this agreement is to discontinue social measures (such as special early retirement pensions) as well as to invest in the sector and better workplaces. The trade unions’ opinions of the new agreement are divergent. The OGBL pointed out that maintaining social dialogue, recruitment and continuing vocational training were important items on the bargaining agenda. The LCGB argued that it signed the agreement to ensure a minimum of guarantees, and states that it is concerned about the discontinuation of social measures, together with the overall working conditions at ArcelorMittal. The LCGB also complained that negotiations on the Lux2019 agreement had contaminated the collective agreement negotiations, as evidenced by the ‘disaster’ of the 2013 collective agreement, which the LCGB refused to sign.
Public sector initiative on time-saving accounts
In July 2017, the Minister of the Interior presented the main issues in the implementation of time-saving accounts in the public sector. Civil servants will be able to request a sabbatical year if they have saved 1,800 working hours – which could be achieved by working a maximum of 48 hours per week/10 hours per day. This initiative was based on preliminary work triggered 20 years ago by the government then in power, and in 2004 by the Social and Economic Council’s report on timesaving accounts (PDF).
The public sector is the second largest sector (after the finance sector) that will implement time-saving accounts in Luxembourg. This initiative by the public sector will force the private sector to restart negotiations on this subject, which were cancelled in 2014. The Alliance of Employer Confederations in Luxembourg (UEL) will hold meetings with LCGB after the union confederation invited it to implement time-saving accounts in the private sector, with negotiations expected to be based on the draft bill for the public sector. The OGBL announced that it would also meet the with UEL during October.
Social dialogue and the revision of the fiscal reform
The social partners and the government have met several times to discuss a partial revision of the fiscal reform (introduced by law in 2016) covering married cross-border workers and their salaries in Luxembourg. The OGBL underlined that cross-border workers were treated unfairly under the 2016 law.
Since its introduction, it has criticised the fact that cross-border workers were required to choose their tax class (class 1: a person who is individually assessed, or class 2: married couples who are jointly assessed) in advance and without any possibility of changing this, as well as access to tax class 2 if at least 90% of revenues are earned in Luxembourg. This was changed through the revision and married cross-border workers can now register if they want to be in tax class 1 (assessed individually) or class 2 with the opportunity of a possible change if the decision is not favourable. Access to tax class 2 now depends on whether the taxpayer earns less than €13,000 outside Luxembourg. The government finally agreed to set up an online simulation tool to help with this issue.
One possible further development in Luxembourg is the debate on teleworking. There is a continuing discussion on teleworking because of the amount of cross-border workers and traffic problems in Luxembourg, and it is hoped that teleworking could alleviate the situation.