Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.
Factsheet for measure BE-2015-1/2734 – measures in Belgium
|Country||Belgium , applies nationwide|
|Time period||Open ended, started on 01 January 2015|
|Context||Restructuring Support Instruments|
|Type||Legislations or other statutory regulations|
Ensuring business continuity and support for essential services
– Smoothing frictions or reallocation of workers
|Author||Dries Van Herreweghe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Eurofound|
|Measure added||11 July 2022 (updated 02 November 2022)|
One of the tasks assigned to joint (sub) committees is to try to prevent and/or settle disputes between employers and employees. For this purpose, a conciliation office can be set up within each joint (sub)committee to fulfil these functions.
The coverage extends to companies that are members of a sectoral joint committee with its own conciliation office.
A conciliation office is composed of a chairman (usually the chairman of the joint (sub)committee), a secretary and appointed members, half of whom are members representing employer organisations and half of whom are members representing employee organisations.
Strict parity is not necessary given the method of decision-making: the employees' and employers' delegations are equal and unanimity is required to make a recommendation to the conflicting parties.
Most sectoral joint committees have a conciliation office. In cases of conflicts, as it can occur during restructuring, each party can appeal to this office for conciliation. Firstly, the office listens to the applicant party's version of events. After this, it hears the view of the other party. Following this, members of the office may request additional information; at this point, they cannot express an opinion. When the members of the office have listened to both parties, they begin to deliberate. If the members of the conciliation office reach a unanimous decision, this is conveyed by non-binding recommendations to the applicants. If not, the conflict situation continues; this can involve events such as strike and lockouts.
In some cases, the chairperson of the conciliation office may also make a recommendation. This recommendation is supported by the conciliation office because no one explicitly opposes it. This is called consensus decision-making.
This is an alternative means of resolving disputes. An important characteristic of the conciliation office is the composition of representatives of the employer and employee organisations. As such, all parties in the dispute are assured of having a representative in the conciliation process, which makes the solution more acceptable. As a consequence, in a majority of the cases, the final recommendations are accepted by both parties.
The conciliation office mediated when strikes by the baggage handlers at Brussels national airport where about to be undertaken. The employees complained about the steep increase in workload and difficult working conditions following the terrorist attacks at the airport. The office managed to alleviate ongoing tensions and prevented concrete actions.
The conciliation office was involved during strikes at Lidl as well. The company management applied for their services when approximately 70 stores were closed because of a strike. By doing, so the management wanted to negotiate once more with the trade unions in the company. The trade unions accepted the request and were willing to negotiate once more with the aid and support from the conciliation office. After several negotiation rounds, progress was made and the company management agreed with implementing measures to alleviate work pressure at their stores.
Employees in standard employment
||Does not apply to citizens|
Social partners jointly
Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:
|Trade unions||Employers' organisations|
|Form||Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies||Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies|
Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:
Social partners are strongly involved as they are represented in the sectoral joint committee and also fund the execution of the office.
Social partners are proponents of the measure, as they are represented in the sectoral joint committee and thereby fund the execution of the office.
Eurofound (2022), Conciliation office, measure BE-2015-1/2734 (measures in Belgium), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/BE-2015-1_2734.html
30 January 2023
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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.