2 – Repeated violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Belgium

The ITUC affiliates in Belgium are the Centrale générale des Syndicats libéraux de Belgique (CGSLB), the Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens (CSC-ACV), and the Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique (FGTB).

In practice

Browse by:

ABVV-FGTB leader convicted for legitimate and peaceful strike action07-01-2020

On 29 June 2018, the Correctional Court in Antwerp convicted Bruno Verlaeckt for malignant obstruction of traffic (art. 406 penal code) during a general strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. No individual acts could be proven, but the court deemed it proven that Bruno, president of the Antwerp branch of the Algemene Centrale (industry branch of ABVV-FGTB) and president of the regional section of ABVV-FGTB, had organised the trade union action on 24 June 2016 and was thus guilty of malignantly obstructing traffic. No punishment/penalty was imposed. Tom Devoght, an ABVV-FGTB trade union representative at Arlanxeo, was also prosecuted, but was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

On 26 June 2019, the Court of Appeal confirmed his conviction and even stated that instead of being guilty due to being the organiser of the trade union action, he was personally guilty of having committed the alleged acts – the obstruction of traffic would not have occurred or not in this manner without the individual preparation by Bruno and his presence during the action. The Court also stated that traffic would not have been obstructed if the trade union had limited itself to an action on a public square or on the side of a road.

On 7 January 2020, the Court of Cassation upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal and stated that as soon as someone intentionally blocks traffic, this has to be considered as malignant obstruction of traffic if this results (or can result) in a dangerous situation. There is no need to prove the intention of creating a dangerous situation.

The Court concluded with the statement that the conviction of Bruno does not prevent the normal exercise of the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. This conviction is a serious blow to the trade union movement in Belgium and a violation of the right to carry out trade union activities, including strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action, as provided by ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Conventions and interpreted by ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
supervisory bodies.

The ABVV-FGTB is analysing whether or not to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in this case.

Furthermore, on 14 February 2018, the indictment chamber of the Correctional Court in Liège decided to prosecute 17 persons on similar charges, that is, malignant obstruction of traffic (art. 406 penal code). Amongst them were Thierry Bodson, secretary-general of the Walloon FGTB; Antonio Fanara, regional secretary of the Metal branch of the ABVV-FGTB; and Gianni Angelucci, ABVV-FGTB trade union representative at FN Herstal. The case dates back to trade union actions on the 19th of October 2015. At the moment, the actual proceedings before the Correctional Court haven’t started yet.

Courts frequently prohibit strikes on unjustified grounds04-12-2019

According to Belgian unions, employers systematically resort to courts when strikes are announced and judges often preventively prohibit strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
actions, justifying their decisions on the legitimate interests and rights of the employers and not even hearing the trade unions before coming to a decision. Recent examples of such court bans on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
include NLMK at Clabecq (4 February 2019), eleven companies in a business park in Oudenaarde (8 February 2019), Commscope Connectivity Belgium at Kessel-Lo (12 February 2019), EDF Luminus at Liège (26 June 2019) and INBEV Belgium at Leuven (4 December 2019).

Administration refusing to register and extend collective agreements23-10-2019

In 2019, Belgian trade unions were faced more often with the refusal of the administrative authorities to register and extend collective agreements on what can only be considered as insignificant details. The initial refusal to render the collective agreement applicable to all sometimes puts at risk carefully obtained compromises between the employer and the unions.

For example, a collective agreement signed in the metal sector on 26 June 2019 for a duration of two years (until 30 June 2021), which provided additional compensation for workers being fired after a lengthy career, was rejected by the administration because the agreement did not explicitly state that only workers dismissed before 30 June 2021 were eligible for the additional compensation. Such detail seemed unnecessary to the partners, as the agreement was for a limited period of time of two years. A new collective agreement had to be agreed upon to be able to extend the collective agreement to all. Significant delays were observed as the new agreement was signed on 23 October 2019, which potentially deprived some workers from benefiting from this provision.

Trade union representatives harassed and prevented from carrying out their activities09-09-2019

At NGK Ceramics Europe in Baudour, trade union representatives of ABVV-FGTB report unfair limitations of the time they are able to spend on trade union activities, individual harassment of trade union representatives by the direction, unjust sanctions inflicted upon trade union representatives and even refusing a representative to take up his mandate again when he returned from sick leave.

Several courts have rendered judgments confirming anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

at the workplace, including the Ghent Labour Court on discrimination against trade union representatives at Volvo (11 June 2019); the Antwerp Labour Court on the firing of a trade union representative (26 June 2019); and the Dendermonde Labour Court of Appeal on harassment and less favorable treatment of a trade union representative (7 February 2019).

However, in other cases, labour courts have not recognised anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

in instances that called for such qualification. For example, the Court of Cassation handed down a decision on 9 September 2019 confirming the dismissal of a worker from Claes Machines CBVA who had participated in a general strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and was accused of not informing his employer of his participation.

While Belgian law does not provide for the obligation for workers to individually inform their employer of their participation in a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the Court of Cassation confirmed the judgment by the Court of Appeal of Antwerp of 11 July 2018, which stated that the dismissal of the worker on the day after the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
did not constitute unfair dismissal, as it was based on the absence of the worker and the serious disruption that it had caused on the company’s work plan.

The Belgian unions indicate that such judicial decisions are evidence that the legal protection against anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

and measures is not adequate in practice. The unions also denounce the common practice among employers to dismiss workers’ representatives just before the social elections. In 2019, at least 96 union representatives were fired.

The next elections will be organised in May 2020, and already unions have noted that a number of their representatives had been dismissed on dubious grounds by employers. In fact, companies try to get rid of possible candidates for the elections. Recent examples of these “preventive dismissals” include Laurent Van Haelen, the lead ACV-CSC representative dismissed by Econom in Zaventem at the end of July 2019, and Stijn Timmermans and Bart Van den Steen, two BBTK-SETCa (white collar branch of ABVV-FGTB) representatives dismissed by the not-for-profit institute Levenslust in Lennik on 8 January 2020.

Another example is that of Chris Dewachter, an ACLVB-CGSLB representative who was dismissed by Ineos Phenol in Antwerp, in January 2020, a few days before he could celebrate 27 years of service. Despite receiving positive evaluations during his whole career, the employer claimed that Dewachter no longer performed correctly in his job as a trade union representative in the works council works council 1. A body elected to represent the interests of workers within a workplace through communication and consultation with the employer e.g. concerning working conditions and health and safety issues. 2. A joint council composed of representatives of both workers and the employer for workplace-level discussions on matters of common interest. . Coincidentally, his dismissal happened after he raised with the management the issue of certain unsafe situations in the company.

Ryanair replaces striking workers in Portugal with Belgian crew31-08-2019
Trade union members harassed and transferred01-06-2019

In the first half of 2019, a female trade union member of the ACLVB-CGSLB was harassed by her supervisor and her colleagues after she reported a serious crime. Further cooperation between employee and employer became impossible. After a mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
attempt, the situation improved for a short while, but not long after she was told that she would be transferred to another client dossier. This transfer was not at the request of the employee, and she felt compelled to leave the company. This unfair treatment impacted her future job applications in such a way that she had to seek special personal guidance/therapy.

Furthermore, a male trade union member of the ACLVCGSLB was bullied by a new manager. This manifested itself in completely ignoring the employee, in not giving information that got shared with other colleagues, often changing the office, falsely accusing the employee of mistakes, etc. As a result, the employee suffered a burn-out. Talks with the employer and intervention by the ACLVB-CGSLB were unsuccessful. The harassment was minimised, and the person responsible was not questioned.

In May 2019, a young female trade union employee of BBTK-SETCa (the white collar workers’ branch of the ABVV-FGTB) was intimidated by members of the extreme-right youth movement (‘Schild & Vrienden’). They made it clear to her that they had the means to hurt her, as they knew where she worked, and they threatened her with approaching her family members. They even showed a video of her while she was commuting. This was a clear attempt at intimidating and destabilising her.

ABVV-FGTB and ACV-CSC members are injured during picket lines13-02-2019

On 13 February 2019, during a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action, a member of the ABVV-FGTB was hurt due to a car speeding right into a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
picket in the city of Antoing. He suffered neck and elbow pain. The driver himself (a local notary) filed a complaint against the union member at the local police station. When the member went over to the police station to file a complaint, the local police flatly refused to register his complaint. At a police station in the nearest neighbouring city, they also refused to register his complaint due to the fact that there was already a file on this opened by the police of Antoing and that he should therefore file his complaint in Antoing.

The same day, in Ghent, at the entrance to an industrial zone, a picket was put in place that allowed cars to pass, but only after informing them of the action. A driver of a Mercedes Benz didn’t have the required patience and speeded through, thereby hurting two of the persons picketing picketing Demonstration or patrolling outside a workplace to publicise the existence of an industrial dispute or a strike, and to persuade other workers not to enter the establishment or discourage consumers from patronising the employer. Secondary picketing involves picketing of a neutral establishment with a view to putting indirect pressure on the target employer. (one from the ABVV-FGTB and one from the ACV-CSC). Police, present during the action, stopped the car.

Trade union representatives are hardly ever reinstated31-12-2018

Belgian unions report that in 2018, at least 50 union representatives were fired. They also denounce that in practice, workers’ representatives are hardly ever reinstated. For example, on 19 December 2018 the company Commscope arbitrarily fired Chris Corten, trade union representative of the ACV-CSC, on very dubious grounds. Despite the spontaneous strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
organised by the workers in support of the representative, Corten has not been reinstated.

NGK Ceramics representatives harassed and discriminated31-12-2018

At NGK Ceramics Europe in Baudour, trade union representatives of ABVV-FGTB report unfair limitations of the time they are able to spend on trade union activities, individual harassment of trade union representatives by the direction, unjust sanctions inflicted upon trade union representatives and even the use of the company screens to claim that the trade union representatives are immature.

ACV-CSC held in custody after police raid07-06-2018

On 7 June 2018, Mounir Tahri, militant for the ACV-CSC, got released after being held for four months following a police raid on Globe Aroma, a non-profit organization working with refugees and undocumented people.

ABVV-FGTB offices raided by extreme right activists01-05-2018

On the eve of the 1st of May 2018, activists of the extreme-right (quasi fascist) movement “Schild & Vrienden” broke into the offices of the ABVV-FGTB in Ghent and took down the ABVV-FGTB flag that hung at the flagpole

Trade union representatives are still dismissed too easily02-01-2018

Trade unions in Belgium denounce the fact that employers can still easily dismiss union representatives by paying compensation. When the special procedure for dismissal of workers’ representatives is infringed, the law provides for the reinstatement of a dismissed union representative. However, in practice, workers’ representatives are hardly ever reinstated. Employers prefer to pay out legal compensation, even large sums, rather than respect the special procedure or reinstate wrongfully dismissed workers’ representatives.

National trade unions in Belgium estimate that at least 58 union representatives were wrongfully dismissed in 2017. For example, the Red Cross Flanders fired Melissa Cowpe, a union representative, and later disregarded two labour courts decisions demanding her reinstatement. Vesuvius, a metalworking company in Oostende, pretexted a restructuration to dismiss five union representatives. While the labour courts ordered their reinstatement, the company never implemented the judicial order.

Moreover, in the framework of a restructuring operation, Vinçotte, an inspection and certification company, dismissed the head delegate of the LBC-NVK, a trade union affiliated with the Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens (CSC-ACV), despite an agreement concluded with trade union representatives aimed at reducing the number of lay-offs and by which the head delegate’s post was supposed to be maintained.

Abusive use of judicial orders to prevent strikes30-10-2017
The government refuses to bargain in good faith02-04-2017

In March 2017, new negotiations on the working conditions of navy pilots were launched. Ben Weyts, the Minister of Labour for Flanders, refused to open dialogue with ACOD, a branch of the Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique (ABVV-FGTB), because ACOD had not signed the previous agreement and decided to conclude an agreement only with trade unions that were part of the previous collective agreement.
Similarly, in 2016, the government unilaterally decided to bypass the conclusion of a collective agreement on overtime in the hotel, restaurant and bars industry by passing a law raising dramatically the amount of overtime hours in the sector. In 2017, the government again showed its contempt for social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. and refused to negotiate on the modalities of compensatory rest for workers in this industry.

Brutality against workers at a picket18-01-2017

On 18 January 2017, at Clarebout Potatoes in Warneton, a direction board member practically rammed his car into a makeshift blockade organised by workers at the entrance of the enterprise. Police had to intervene. One of the truck drivers transporting goods in and out of the enterprise also tried to break the makeshift blockade. At the end of the blockade, police officers treated with brutality a trade union secretary in what later was explained as “a misunderstanding”.

Several episodes undermining freedom of association occurred in the private sector31-12-2016

During the 2016 union elections in the private sector, a media campaign started trying to undermine freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and trade union rights asking for a simplification of the electoral procedure as well as for the possibility to have a clear view of the financial means of the trade unions and access to the list of affiliates. This climate of anti-union campaign resulted in a rising trend of negative attitude towards workers’ representatives, and therefore fewer workers willing to run as candidates during the elections.
The temporary agency workers’ company Accent Jobs went so far as to promise to its employees an extra day of leave and a smartphone if no one would have run for workers’ representatives, so as to exempt the company from the obligation to hold elections due to lack of candidates.

Employers continue - in breach of decision of the European Committee on Social Rights- to prohibit or stop strikes by starting unilateral pleas31-10-2016

In a clear violation of the decision of the European Committee on Social Rights, employers continue to make recourse to unilateral pleas (within non-contradictory procedures) to prohibit or stop strikes.
When workers (through their trade union) announce their intention to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, some employers immediately go to court. Even before the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
starts, judges can decide – without hearing the trade unions – that the rights of the employer will be infringed by the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and therefore forbid that the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
take place.

Examples are Infrabel (26th of May 2016); the city of Andenne (4th of March 2016); TEC (June 2016); Sioen Industries (23rd of June 2016); EDF Luminus (30th of June 2016); A. Hartrodt (Belgium) Airfreight; Geodis Calberson Belgium, Nippon Express Belgium & Hazgo (6th of October 2016); FN Herstal (24th of October 2016).

The government undermines trade unions’ right to bargain collectively through the ad hoc amendment of a law regulating overtime work in the food service industry 03-08-2016

The government unilaterally introduced in the hotel, restaurant and bars sector a reform named Program Law II regulating the system of overtime work. In particular, the new law raised the number of overtime work hours per year to 360 and allowed the employer to pay for those overtime hours but just the net amount without any social security contribution and with the possibility for the worker to opt out of the compensation time. Nevertheless, in order for the law to be implemented, a sectorial collective agreement needed to be signed: once the trade unions found such vacuum in the legislation, in order to avoid the implementation of the law eroding workers’ rights, they refused to negotiate the sectorial collective agreement therefore impeding the new overtime limit from becoming effective. The employers of the food service industry denounced such behaviour, and in response the government amended the Program Law II eliminating the need of a collective agreement in the sector, thus overstepping trade unions and their right to bargain collectively.

The government jeopardises National Railroad Company (NMBS) workers’ freedom to choose their representatives03-08-2016

On the 3rd of August 2016, the government enacted the Law concerning diverse measures on mobility, imposing on trade unions at company level the requirement to hold compulsory elections starting from 2018. The above-mentioned legislation does not grant to candidates any protection during the electoral process, unlike the “twin” legislation regulating trade union elections in the private sector. Furthermore, this new law has excluded trade unions (notably ASTB and OVS) – which are not affiliated to one of the three representative national centres – from participating in collective disputes’ resolution mechanisms as well as in social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. at the enterprise level. This exclusion exposes them to possible penalties in case they want to call a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and, naturally, affects in a negative way the level of participation in industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. organised by those trade unions.

Interferences in strikes10-06-2015

Many employers, in particular in schools, try to intimidate workers by forcing them to put their name on a list of workers who will participate in a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. During recent provincial and general strikes, employers offered workers who were not participating in the strikes to work in other offices of the company than the one targeted by the strikers. Warehouse directions used “secret” depots to supply shops when the normal depots were affected by strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
actions.

Employers delay collective bargaining negotiations31-12-2014

Each time, employers’ organisations deliberately delay negotiations over the biannual discussion on social security benefits to make them coincide with the biannual negotiations for a national interprofessional collective agreement. This also happened during the discussion for the period 2013-2014. In 2013, the government amended the legislation in order to ensure that if no agreement was reached by 15 September, there will be an automatic adaptation of the social security benefits. Even though this should have prevented employers from delaying negotiations, the new government has refused to implement this law.

If a company decides to have a restructuring and/or mass dismissal, the law imposes a negotiation with the trade unions so as to make it possible for the trade unions to come up with alternatives. In reality however, companies almost never backtrack on their initial decision.

Anti-union discrimination31-12-2014

Employers are still free to dismiss union representatives by paying compensation. A special procedure must be respected when dismissing workers’ representatives on works councils and health and safety committees, failing which the workers’ representatives can ask for reinstatement. However, in practice, workers’ representatives are hardly ever reinstated. Employers prefer to pay out legal compensation, even large sums, rather than respect the special procedure or reinstate wrongfully dismissed workers’ representatives. In 2014, at least 65 union representatives were fired.

In May 2014, a researcher at the University of Ghent published the findings of research whereby fictive application letters were sent to employers. The jobseekers that listed in their CV the affiliation of a trade union had around 23 per cent less chance of being invited for a job interview.

Hacking of union websites15-12-2014
Intervention in picket01-12-2014

On 1 December 2014, dock workers holding a picket at the harbor of Zeebrugge were arrested when they refused to disperse a picket. Police had asked them to disperse at around 21:30 arguing that police officers were tired after having worked for over 14 hours.

Delay of negotiations31-07-2014

Employers’ organisations deliberately delay biannual negotiations over social security benefits. This also happened during the discussion for the period 2013-2014. As a result, the government changed the legislation stating that social security benefits will be automatically adapted if the social partners social partners Unions and employers or their representative organisations. do not reach an agreement by 15 September.
If a company decides to have a restructuring and/or mass dismissal, the law imposes a negotiation with the trade unions on alternative solutions. In practice, companies never agree on propositions from unions. Recent examples are mass dismissals at Arcelor Mittal Liège, Ford Genk, Crown Deurne and Caterpillar Gosselies.

Criminalisation of legitimate trade union activities26-03-2014

On 24 September 2013, 11 activists were found guilty of forming a criminal organization after having entered field with genetically modified crops. An academic researcher who participated in the protest was dismissed from her position at KU Leuven and was only reinstated after a new rector got elected.
On 26 March 2014, workers at the annual fair protested against a decision by the municipal authority on changing the location of the fair and blocking several streets in and around Antwerp. Police violently attacked and dispersed the protesters and the mayor even called the army to tow away the caravans used by the protesters. The protestors stopped the action before the arrival of the army.

Arrests and detentions26-03-2014

There is also a growing tendency to criminalise social movements in order to discourage protest action. On 26 March 2014, fair workers protested a decision by the municipal authority to change the location of the annual fair by blockading several streets in and around Antwerp. Police violently attacked and dispersed the protesters, and the mayor even called in the army to tow away the caravans used by the protesters. The protestors stopped their action before the arrival of the army.

Anti-union discrimination14-10-2013

Employers are still allowed to dismiss union representatives by paying compensation. Workers’ representatives on work councils and health and safety committees can ask for reinstatement after a special procedure. However, in most cases employers pay legal compensation rather than reinstating the workers. In 2013, at least 53 trade union representatives lost their jobs.
For example, Giovanni Caramazza, a union representative at the public transport company TEC, was dismissed in May 2011 after falsely being condemned for assault and battery. On 14 October 2013, the Court of Appeal overruled the judgment and ordered reinstatement. However, TEC refuses to reinstate Giovanni Caramazza despite this decision.

Infringements on the right to freely organise activities14-08-2013

Arcelor Mittal (Liège) security guards have been using pen cameras to spy on trade union meetings since 2008.

Interference in strike action16-05-2013

The government threatened workers who were on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at Brussels Airport with fines in case they continued the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action. Baggage handlers at Swissport went on a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in May 2013. On the fifth day of the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the government made an unprecedented public statement to coerce an end to the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.
Workers at Rossel Printing Company were reprimanded for participating in the nation-wide trade union protest of 21 February 2013.

Protests20-03-2013

In November 2012, around 250 Belgian trade union members participated in a demonstration in front of the European Seat of Ford in Köln, to protest the closure of their plant in Genk. In October 2013 around 20 of them were accused of “serious violation of the public order.” The public prosecutor of Köln proposed a financial settlement to avoid penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
On 7 February 2013, around 1000 Belgian trade union members participated in a demonstration in Strasbourg to protest the redundancy of 1300 jobs by Arcelor Mittal in Liège. French police brutally attacked the protesting workers. John David, a 25-year old worker, lost an eye due to a rubber bullet fired by police.
On 20 of March 2013, 500 workers from Arcelor Mittal Liège demonstrated in Namur at the seat of the regional parliament. Police used water cannons against the protesters injuring the eye of one worker.

Unreasonable time-limits for bargaining31-01-2013

As a result of pressure exerted by employers’ organisations, the government set a time limit of January 2013 for bargaining on overtime and working hours.

Interference in strike action31-01-2013

Police used water cannons to disperse workers who were striking because of announced mass dismissals at Arcelor Mittal (Liège) in January 2013.

Sanctions for strike action08-10-2012

Public authorities interpret the “municipal administrative penalty” broadly and use it to restrict trade union activities. 20 trade unionists were forced to stop distributing leaflets in front of the Delhaize supermarket in Antwerp when they were threatened with administrative penalties on 8 October 2012.

Refusal to bargain in good faith30-09-2012

In September, employers’ organisations deliberately delayed negotiations over the biannual discussion (2013-2014) on social security benefits.

Facing the risk of a negative interpretation of the EU Agency Workers Directive30-11-2011

With a view to the transposition of the European Temporary Agency Workers Directive, employers organisations argued that collective agreements which restrict the use of temporary workers are in breach of the directive. If the government agrees with their argument, the transposition of the directive into national law could lead to an upsurge in temporary contracts to the detriment of permanent workers and of the right of trade unions to bargain collectively, if temporary agency work is de facto no longer considered a specific subject for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
.

Binding pay rise ceilings restrict collective bargaining01-07-2011

After two trade union organisations rejected the text on the multi-sector agreement, the caretaker government set the “wage standard” (a ceiling on pay rises over a two year period) at 0.0% for 2011 and 0.3% in 2012. On 1 July the Employment Minister confirmed that the standard was binding, that its application would be checked and that infringements would be penalised. Sectoral and company collective agreements cannot therefore grant pay rises above this standard, on pain of being invalidated. In May, two new collective agreements in the stone quarrying industry were rejected on these grounds. In the view of the Liege branch of the FGTB, which negotiated the agreements with the employers, “the Belgian tradition of social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. is being trampled underfoot”.

Employers still free to dismiss union representatives by paying compensation31-12-2010

A special procedure must be respected when dismissing workers’ representatives on works councils and health and safety committees, failing which the workers’ representatives can ask for reinstatement. However, in practice, workers’ representatives are never reinstated. Employers prefer to pay out legal compensation, even large sums, rather than respect the special procedure or reinstate wrongfully dismissed workers’ representatives.

Non-respect of the 2002 “gentlemen’s agreement” on the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, right to strike flouted31-12-2010

Despite an informal agreement signed by the social partners social partners Unions and employers or their representative organisations. in 2002, aimed at encouraging conciliation conciliation An attempt by a neutral third party, a conciliator, to aid the settling of an industrial dispute by improving communications, offering advice and interpreting issues to bring the disputing parties to a point where they can reconcile their differences. The conciliator does not take as active a role as a mediator or an arbitrator.

See arbitration, mediation
and mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
over all other forms of dispute settlement, employers have often and abusively called for the courts to intervene, claiming an “absolute emergency”. Rather than enter into negotiation, enterprises file an ex parte application which results in the courts taking a decision before the workers have had an opportunity to plead their case. Heavy fines are foreseen if they ignore these rulings. Appeals are possible, but usually fail.

As a general rule, the courts consider that it is not acceptable to prevent employees or third parties gaining access to the workplace, regardless of whether violence is used in doing so, but judges have issued “preventive” orders even when there is nothing to indicate that such acts would be committed. Furthermore, if trade unions call off a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the courts consider that the dispute is settled and refuse to rule on the grounds for or possible infringement of the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The European Trade Union Confederation, ETUC, and the three national trade union centres ACLVB-CGSLB, CSC-ACV and FGTB-ABVV lodged a complaint with the European Committee of Social Rights against this undermining of the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.

Circumventing the law30-11-2009

A special procedure needs to be respected when dismissing workers’ representatives in works councils and committees for prevention and protection at work, or else the workers’ representatives can ask for reinstatement. However, in practice, workers’ representatives are never reinstated. Employers prefer to pay out legal entitlements, even large ones, rather than to respect the special procedures or to take wrongfully dismissed workers’ representatives back. Moreover, the law provides that during the proceedings the contract can only be suspended by the labour court for valid reasons. The courts grant this suspension liberally, therefore the exception becomes the rule.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap