The Flemish Minister in charge of administration, Lisbeth Gomans (nationalist, photo above), and trade unions representing Flemish public sector workers have reached an agreement that will prevent a strike scheduled for this Friday.
Speaking on Tuesday evening, Ms Homans’ told VRT News that she had agreed with the unions to the formation of a working party that will meet each week. During these meetings the unions will be able to put forward their proposals for the reform of the status of civil servants employed in Flemish public services.
“The first meeting will take place next Monday. In the meantime all industrial action planned by the unions has been halted”.
This includes Friday’s planned general strike by all Flemish public sector workers.
Ms Homans’ plans for the reform to the conditions of employment of those with civil servant status were announced in the summer. The unions oppose the proposals as they would mean less favourable conditions for some of those working in Flemish public services. For example, those with civil servant status would like those with other types of fixed employment contacts on receive 65% of their salary as sick pay if they had been off work ill for more than 30 days. The idea behind the reforms is to make conditions of employment the same for all working in the Flemish public services.
On Tuesday staff working for the Maritime Services Department downed tools causing major disruption in Flemish ports and on the region’s inland waterways. Countless ships were unable to enter or leave ports and the economic damage caused by Tuesday’s industrial action has been great. The effects of the action will be felt for some days to come.
The Minister and the unions held talks on Tuesday afternoon to avert Friday’s planned strike and a compromise was reached.
From 24 September a working party will meet each week. Ms Homans says that she is prepared to listen to the unions’ suggestions. Previously the consultations could only last 30 days. Now Ms Homans says that they can go on until December.