In Luxembourg, defending the interests of employees is at the centre of attention in the run-up to the social elections in March next year. In this context, the trade union Aleba has caused some controversy in recent years.
We spoke to Sylvie REUTER, the central secretary of OGBL Finance Sector.
What caused Aleba to fall out of favour in trade union circles? What is OGBL’s position on this?
In the past, Aleba violated the Luxembourg law on collective agreements and was therefore stripped of its sectoral representativeness. The Luxembourg law on collective agreements stipulates that contractual negotiations cannot take place without OGBL and LCGB. Ms. REUTER underlines that the representation of employees in the financial sector as a whole must not be undermined or weakened.
Ms REUTER emphasised that Aleba was not discriminated against on all sides. On the contrary, it had put itself in this situation by signing an agreement on its own and without consulting the two representative unions at national level. According to this agreement, workers in the financial sector were to forego wage increases and other improvements despite record profits. Aleba did not respond to OGBL’s urgent appeals and refused to act in the interests of the employees. It was then stripped of its sectoral representation.
Only then was OGBL able to obtain real negotiations. These negotiations led to qualitative improvements such as the right to disconnect, social leave of up to 5 days per year, more leave for certain groups, more participation rights, the obligation to negotiate time-saving accounts, the obligation to provide further training and no sanctioning measures on the basis of the annual assessment. In banks, a linear pay rise of 0.7% in the second year (in 2022) and 0.5% in the third year (in 2023) was achieved. In insurance, substantial increases were granted in the salary scales. We should not forget the restoration of the mechanism of indexation without distinction of salary.
The Aleba filed a lawsuit due to the deprivation of its sectoral representativeness. What is the current situation?
The summary judgment did not uphold Aleba’s appeal. And the administrative court, which handed down its judgment on the substance, also rejected Aleba’s complaints one by one. Aleba has therefore already lost in both instances.
Aleba keeps invoking the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Is it right?
No, says Ms REUTER. The ILO simply says that it must be legally ensured that the associations representing the employees can exercise this right. So far, this has been largely guaranteed by existing legislation. Aleba always had a place at the negotiating table, even if it was not clear on which side it was.
What will happen now?
Aleba has announced that it wants to take action in all economic sectors in the future in order to become a nationally representative trade union. In order to do this, it would have to obtain more than 20% in all economic sectors in the elections to the Chamber of Employees (CSL). Apart from the fact that this goal seems unrealistic, it proves once again that their own interests outweights the interests of workers in the financial sector. The latter seems to be only secondary to them. Instead of concentrating more on the sector, in which they lost their majority in the last elections, they now want to be active everywhere.
OGBL Finance Sector will continue to focus on the interests of employees in the financial sector, to defend and represent them. It will do its best to keep the financial sector employees at the forefront. In a constantly changing financial world, often led by foreign parent companies, cross-industry expertise is needed. As a guarantor of social dialogue and a right to speak as equals, OGBL will do everything to ensure that employees in the financial sector continue to be adequately represented.
Why is it useful and necessary to be represented by the majority and by a major national union, such as OGBL?
Employees in the financial sector have unique challenges and interests, more specific than those in other industries. A national union, and one specialising in the finance sector, can better focus on these challenges and interests and defend the interests of workers in this sector. A national union active in the financial sector can also have a stronger voice with employers and government. It can conduct negotiations and campaigns at national level and advocate for better working conditions, wages and benefits for employees.
In addition, OGBL can also promote better solidarity and support among employees. As the financial sector is often globalised, national unions can help to promote cooperation and exchange of information between workers in different countries.
Overall, there are many reasons why financial sector employees need OGBL to represent their interests and needs and to give a stronger voice in the sector.