A recent report from the International Labour Organization has concluded that the strict limits on private sector wage negotiations that apply in Belgium are incompatible with the right to collective bargaining.
On 6 December 2021, three Belgian trade union federations (the CSC, FGTB and CGSLB) lodged a joint complaint with the ILO. The complaint alleged that Belgium labour law (specifically a1996 law on protecting employment and safeguarding competitiveness, as amended in 2017) that imposes restrictions on private sector wage increases 'drastically restricts the possibility for the social partners to freely negotiate wage evolution for workers in the private sector'. The three trade union federations claimed this was contrary to Belgium's commitments under ILO Conventions 98 and 154, which protect the right to collective bargaining.
In a report published on 4 November 2022, the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association examined the complaint and the operation of Belgium's private sector salary modification mechanism in detail. The Committee concluded that the way the law operated in practice, particularly since its amendment in 2017, did indicate:
'the existence of a significant restriction on the social partners' ability to negotiate autonomously on the evolution of private sector wage levels.'
The Committee has asked the Belgian government, to consult with social partners and take the 'necessary measures' in to ensure free wage negotiations are possible in the private sector going forward. Press reports suggest the government has indicated its willingness to make the requested changes.
The full Committee on Freedom Association report is available (in French) here.
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