The employment deal is intended to get more people into the workplace. But the cure seems worse than the ailment. The big problem in our country is the large outages in the workplace. People work themselves crooked and fall out. This agreement does nothing about that and even aggravates that situation.
On the night of 14 to 15 February, the federal government reached an agreement on the’labor deal’. This is a plan to reform the labour market. According to the government, more people need to work and the measures provide more flexibility for both employers and employees.
The plan certainly contains some positive points, but also a lot of negative ones. BTB, the Belgian Transport Association of ABVV describes the agreement as “an extensive buffet with some inedible dishes””
“The labor deal is an extensive buffet with some inedible dishes””
The agreement provides for the right to ‘disconnect’, say the right to be left alone by your boss after hours. Green considers this a very important plus. Trade unions see this as a step forward. But the ABVV wonders why this principle does not apply to companies with fewer than 20 employees, and there are quite a few. Moreover, it is for the liberal trade union ACLVB but the question is who will determine what urgent cases are for which employees can still be called.
Another plus is the better protection of the so-called platform workers (Uber, Delivroo, …). Vooruit and Groen indicate that from now on these people will be insured against an accident at work and can now also accrue a pension.
“This measure brings little news and the big problem is control.”
Trade unions think this is indeed an improvement, but for the ACV it is insufficient: “for all other rights, platform workers remain dependent on endless legal proceedings and therefore targeted by the expensive law firms of the international platforms”. For the PVDA, this measure brings little news and the big problem is control. The party fears “that there will be little change in practice””
Other improvements, which everyone agrees on, are increasing the number of training days to five per year and sufficiently announcing the part-time variable hourly schedules in advance.
For ABVV, the end of the 8-hour working day is particularly difficult. In principle, the extension of the working day to 10 hours is voluntary, but that’s just a smokescreen. In addition, the combination of work and family then becomes very difficult.
The ACV has many questions about the combined working time in the four-day week. “A lot of people are not doing the job right now. Even longer working days will not do any good. The government had much better bet on an expansion and improvement of the time credit and runways system.”
For the PVDA, the 10-hour day is thus “normalized”and the 38-hour week also dies. “If you also charge the large number of ‘voluntary’ overtime, people will often be obliged to work that fifth day anyway. The working week of 45 hours is thus legalized in the facts.”
“The 10-is normalized and the 45-hour working week is legalized in the facts.”
The extension of night work is also unacceptable. For BTB, the measure “in which night work can already be done from 20h, subject to the agreement of 1 union is dramatic. Companies where there is no trade union presence are thus given a free guide to organize night work without surcharge.”
According to the ACV, this measure comes ” after 7 years of pounding of the e-commerce lobby”. Moreover, this is a dangerous precedent and “it is to be feared that even more flexibility will soon be pushed through. While it is absolutely not a good idea: with people, with their family life and with their health you do not experiment!”
This measure would also be voluntary, but that is according to PVDA theory: “go with a contract of limited duration or as an interim tell your boss that you do not want to do that ‘evening work’ voluntarily. The’ freedom ‘ Vivaldi speaks of is the freedom to do what the boss says, or fly outside.”
“The employer can completely put the unions aside through agreements with individual employees.”
What the trade unions are doing the most is sidelining their trade unions. To allow night work in e-commerce from 20 am to midnight, only the agreement of one union in the company is needed. “In addition, the employer can completely put the unions aside through agreements with individual employees,” according to the ABVV.
According to the ABVV, such individual regulations threaten “to erode the Interprofessional and sectoral level, leaving only the employee-employer relationship. That is exactly the level at which the employee is the weakest to negotiate for his own interests.”
“Two years ago, the government took office with the promise to respect the social partners more. Today, nothing remains of this.”
The ACLVB does not think it is possible that “barely two years ago, the government took office with the promise to respect the social partners more than today, to find that nothing remains of this.”
According to the think tank Minerva, the government and the employers ‘ organizations make a false diagnosis. They find the employment rate too low and want to increase it by activating more people (unemployed, long-term sick). But that’s not the problem, according to the think tank.
There have never been so many people at work in our country as today. In the last 25 years, the number of effectively worked hours increased by more than a quarter. That is about as much as in the Netherlands, twice as much as in France and even three times as much as in Germany.
The problem in Belgium is not so much the lack of inflow but the large outages. More than 400,000 employees are incapacitated for more than one year and there is also a lot of disability among young people in their thirties. No less than one in six employees have a chance of burnout in our country.
More than 400,000 employees are incapacitated for more than one year and there is also a lot of disability among young people in their thirties.
According to Minerva, this is the result of two things. On the one hand, a very high workload: our productivity is among the highest in the world. On the other hand, a low level of participation in the workplace: it is worse than in our neighbouring countries. Due to the combination of these two factors, many people drop out.
If you want more people in the workplace, you will have to do something about both factors: more employee involvement and workable work. Koen Wils of ACV education is missing in the employment deal in any case “concrete measures for workable work. Many 60s are exhausted after long, intense careers. They just saw their retirement move. That was also ‘breach of contract’! But the younger generation should be up to 67! Unthinkable with the current working conditions.”
“The agreement does not provide answers to the biggest challenge for the labor market: the epidemic of work stress, burnout and work-related long-term illnesses.”
According to PVDA, the agreement does not provide answers to the biggest challenge for the labor market: the epidemic of work stress, burnout and work-related long-term illnesses. “The government wants those people to work, but their solution is to further erode protection. That is counterproductive.”
For the ABVV, the government’s employment deal largely meets the employer’s requirements. The attitude of the trade unions is tentative for the time being. But it is highly questionable whether this will remain so.
“If the government continues to push workers’ representatives aside when it comes to crucial issues such as flexibility, night work, daily working time, the right to disconnect, training, and so on, when workers are already suffering significantly from declining purchasing power, then it will be little surprising that those same workers in the streets will make their voices heard loudly.”