Socialist union rank and file rejects wage accord

Members of the socialist trades union have rejected the wage agreement reached by negotiators of the socialist, liberal and Christian trade unions and the employers’ federations. Early the Christian and liberal trade unions had announced that their members had voted to approve to deal. Now the socialist trades union has rejected the deal, the ball is now in the Federal Government’s court. 

The government could, as it did in 2015, decide to enforce the agreement despite it not enjoying the support of all three unions.   

56% of the members of the socialist trades ABVV that voted, voted to reject the agreement. Earlier on Tuesday the Christian trade union announced that its members had voted 65% in favour of the accord. Members of the liberal trades unions ACLVB voted 75.5% in favour of the agreement.

The agreement came at the end of February after long and at time arduous negotiations.

If, as now is the case, one of the social partners votes to reject the wage agreement, theoretically the agreement no longer exists. It is then left to the government to enforce it, something it already did in 2015.  However, this could well prove more difficult now as we have a caretaker federal government with no majority.

The Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters (Flemish Christian democrat) say that he finds the socialist trade union’s decision to reject the deal to be regrettable. Mr Peeters added that he would like the Group of Ten (a group made up of representatives of the employers federations and the trade unions) to get back around the table and negotiate as soon as possible.   

The agreement

The agreement limits private sector wage increase to a maximum of 1.1% during the coming year. The agreement also provides for a 10 cent/hour increase in the level of the minimum wage and an increase in the level of pensions and benefits.

Furthermore, the system by which people are able to stop work and receive benefits topped up by a contribution from their former employer (SWT) would remain accessible from the age of 58 for another year.