Employment office overpaid railway workers for years

Belgium’s National Employment Office, ONEM, has found that, for years, the three companies of the national railway group, SNCB, violated social laws due to a miscalculation of the hours employees with 4/5th-time contracts were required to work. This led ONEM to give workers of the three companies – SNCB, Infrabel and HR Rail – higher compensatory allowances than it should have.

According to the various officials concerned, the violation was committed unknown to them, L’Echo newspaper reported.

ONEM confirmed to L’Echo that it has sent a letter to HR Rail asking the company to resolve the situation by the 1st of January 2018. It also explained that the workers will not be made to reimburse anything. “We feel they acted in good faith,” ONEM General Counsel Michèle Baukens said. She added that there was “constructive dialogue” with the railway companies.

For years the ONEM overpaid SNCB employees who were supposed to work four-fifths of the time. The compensation ONEM gave to these employees was worked out on the basis of their working 30.4 hours each week: four-fifths of a 38-hour week. However, the three companies based their calculations on a 40-hour week, so the employees with 4/5ths contracts worked 32 hours per week and not 30.4 hours. Their wages thus amounted to 84.2% of their full salaries instead of 80%.

According to observers’ calculations, millions of euros were unduly paid out by ONEM to about 4,000 railway workers. It was finally alerted to the anomaly by a question from a railway worker regarding his working hours.

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