Collective bargaining coverage in Belgium is very high at 96% while trade union density is at 54%. More general information on industrial relations can be found on the ETUI Worker Participation website and the EIRO website
Collective bargaining system
Collective bargaining in Belgium is regulated in considerable detail through the Collective Agreements Act covering the private sector and a framework and various Royal decrees covering the public sector. Collective bargaining coverage is very high at 98%.
Inter-sectoral collective bargaining takes place every two years in the private sector’s bi-partite National Labour Council (NLC), which is then followed by negotiations at sectoral level. In the public sector there is also a two-year cycle with the national level committee, the public sector equivalent of the NLC, dealing with the main pay and conditions issues.
Social dialogue takes place at local level through works councils. There is a legal right to establish works councils in any organisation with 100 or more workers and similarly for health and safety committees where there are 50 or more workers.
Legal regulation of pay and working conditions
There is a system of automatic indexation covering pay in both sectors. Wages are guaranteed to increase by 2% for every 2% increase in inflation. So any collective bargaining on pay increases is effectively a question of negotiating real increase in pay. Other conditions are also established in national legislation, including the 38-hour working week.
Trade union organisation in Belgium reflects the three main socio-political pillars of the country – Catholicism, socialism and liberalism – and so there are three trade union confederations which each have a public services section. The union acronyms are normally given in both Dutch and French and so there is the Christian ACV/CSC with its CCOD/CCSP public service federation, the socialist ABVV/FGTB and its ACOD/CGSP public service section and the liberal VSOA/SLFP and its ACLVB/CGSLB public service federation.
Public service pay and conditions are determined by negotiation and consultation in a range of committees on which all the main union federations are represented. The main national Committee A covers all levels of government, federal, regional and local as well as public enterprises. It sets minimum standards in a range of areas such as pay, holiday entitlement, pensions and maternity leave.
Committee B covers the federal authorities and there are 20 sub-committees that cover particular sectors or organisations at this level of the public services.
The third level, Committee C, covers provincial and local government and within this system local authorities are grouped together in regions which have their own negotiating committee.