Trade union position stable after workplace elections

On 13 November 2013, 437,000 employees and retired workers were invited to vote in the workplace elections held in Luxembourg every five years. The task was to elect representatives to staff delegations, which are similar to works councils, and to the Chamber of Employees. Since a single status was adopted for manual and non-manual workers, the chamber has functioned as an official discussion and consultation body involved directly in the country’s legislative process.

Background

Workplace elections are held in Luxembourg every five years. The most recent elections were held on 13 November 2013, and 437,000 employees and retired workers were eligible to vote. , However, the turnout was just 36% (approximately 158,000 people). Just over 700 companies were involved.

Compared with the previous election, which was held in 2008, votes for candidates not affiliated to a trade union increased by 3.37 percentage points and provisional results published by the labour and mines inspectorate (ITM) show that these candidates won 50.71% of the vote.

Next was the country’s main trade union confederation, the Independent Trade Union Confederation of Luxembourg (OGB-L), which has more than 68,000 members. It won a lower proportion of the vote (29.14%) compared to 2008 (30.66%).

OGBL’s rival, the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Unions (LCGB) which has 40,000 members, came third. However, it won a much lower proportion of the vote (14.11%), 1.33 percentage points lower that its 2008 performance.

Similarly, the trade union federation for the financial sector, the Luxembourg Association of Bank and Insurance Employees (ALEBA) which has 13,000 members, received 4.73% of the vote, down 1.91 percentage points.

The provisional results suggest that of the 5,725 delegates elected, 1,668 will be OGBL candidates, 808 from LCGB and 271 from ALEBA.

The OGBL said that in the companies in which it presented a list of candidates, it had secured 64% of the elected delegates, compared to 61.62% in 2008.

In these same companies, the LCGB received 17% of the votes compared with 18.18% in 2008. However, the LCGB stated that, in the 437 companies in which it submitted a list of candidates, it obtained ‘a majority in 41% of the staff delegations’.

Votes in the Chamber of Employees

The OGBL also confirmed that it had a majority of seats in the Chamber of Employees (CSL), winning 38 seats out of a total of 60, two seats more than it won in 2008. The LCGB and ALEBA lost one seat each. The OGBL made progress in the construction industry (winning one seat to bring its total to five), no doubt benefiting from its hard-line position on the conflict between employees and employers’ organisations over renewal of the sector’s collective agreement (LU1308011I). The LCGB did not benefit from its more conciliatory position, and now has only one representative instead of two. It did, however, gain an additional seat in the steel industry, won over from the OGBL.

ALEBA still strong in banking sector

In the banking and insurance sector almost 12% of the labour force has been laid off since 2008. ALEBA is recognised as representative at a national level because of the importance of the financial industry and remains a key player after these elections with 65.6% of the vote. Nevertheless, it also performed less well than in 2008 when it came close to 70%. This decline benefited the OGBL, which is perhaps more combative in its approach at certain banks, and its share of the vote rose from 13.5% to 18.2%. The LCGB also gained, seeing its share of the vote rise from 7.6% to 10.4%.

‘The presence of the LCGB in the financial sector has been strengthened,’ the confederation stated.

It should be noted that successful non-affiliated candidates are rare in this sector, and they received only 5.4% of the vote compared to the substantial 12.2% they received in 2008.

OGBL holds on to majority in steel sector

In the steel industry, the OGBL believes it has paid the price for the closure of the ArcelorMittal plant in Schifflange. While retaining its majority, it nevertheless lost several percentage points to the LCGB, as well as one of its four seats in the CSL where the LCGB now has two seats. The LCGB said it had won its ‘best ever result in the steel sector’, with 40% of the votes.

In the health sector, the OGBL reinforced its dominant position, receiving more than 80% of the votes. It also said it was satisfied with its result in the cleaning sector, where it had an advantage because of the battle surrounding recognition of employees’ qualifications. Finally, the OGBL significantly increased its share of the vote at Cactus, the biggest employer in the retail sector, up from 67% in 2008 to 85%, and also won 100% of the votes in textile sales. It achieved this at a difficult time for commerce in Luxembourg.

The LCGB welcomed the creation of ‘a solid basis for the years to come in construction, the skilled trades, commerce and the health sector’. 

Commentary

The trade unions’ position in Luxembourg has emerged from the workplace elections largely unchanged, albeit with some changes worthy of note in certain segments such as banks and insurance companies, the steel sector and other industries.

It will be interesting to follow these developments and the positions of the different players in these areas, in the financial sector in particular, affected as it is by the lifting of bank secrecy and the obligation to share tax information between European administrations. The special status of industry-specific trade union ALEBA will undoubtedly be put to the test, as the increase in votes for the OGBL seems to suggest.

Frédéric Turlan, IR Share

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