Worker participation - Luxembourg

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Odette Wlodarski, Prevent

Introduction

Luxembourg has a long tradition of workers’ participation in the economic and legislative life of the country, with the professional chambers representing a form of economic democracy since the early 20th century. The idea of establishing professional chambers of salaried workers in Luxembourg was of course inspired by foreign examples and by the experience of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, established in 1841. Eventually, the law of 4 April 1924 [1] led to the creation of elected professional chambers in Luxembourg. Two out of the five existing chambers represent the workers: the Luxembourg Chamber of Employees [2] and the Chamber of Civil Servants and Public Employees [3]. In Luxembourg, employee representation thus takes two forms: compulsory and voluntary. Firstly, workers are required to be a member of the one of the chambers. Secondly, they can also be represented by one of the voluntary forms of representation, i.e. the trade unions. Social elections for both representatives of the professional chambers and personnel delegations in companies are held every five years.

The article describes both direct and indirect participation forms with a focus on formal participation structures (legal instruments). An overview of methods of worker participation can be found in Methods and effects of worker participation and Occupational safety and health management systems and workers’ participation.

Regulatory framework for worker participation

Information and consultation

Workers’ participation in private companies is regulated by various provisions of the Labour Code on the subject of personnel representation. In the public sector, the framework is different, as the public sector does not hold social elections. Thus, within State administrations, services and establishments, professional associations may be approved as representing the personnel. Such associations are groupings formed in accordance with the law on non-profit organisations and public establishments, with the exclusive aim of upholding the professional interests of the profession that they represent and in whose name they act. The role of representation is then exercised by the board of directors or the management committee of the approved professional association. If several representative associations exist for different professions within the same administration, the committees of these different associations represent the personnel [4].

European Directive 2002/14/EC establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community [[5] was transposed by the law of 9 May 2008 [6] amending the Labour Code. In particular, the transposition added certain consultative powers to the competencies of the personnel delegations in companies with between 15 and 150 employees. In companies with more than 150 workers, most of the powers were already set out in the regulations.

Within companies and organisations, and in the specific field of occupational health and safety, workers’ participation in health and safety policy is primarily defined by the provisions of the law of 17 June 1994 [7] transposing European framework directive 89/391/EEC [8] on safety and health at work into Luxembourg law. These provisions now appear in the Labour Code for private-sector employees [9]. For the public sector, similar provisions were introduced by the law of 8 June 1994 on the application to public-sector legal entities of framework directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work [10].

OSH and worker participation

There is no social dialogue body in Luxembourg reserved exclusively for questions of occupational health and safety, either at national or company level. Moreover, at national level a distinction has to be made between tripartite structures (government, employers and workers) such as the Economic and Social Council [11], the Tripartite Coordination Committee [12] or the Standing Committee on Labour and Employment, and bipartite talks during which the trade unions and employers’ organisations have the possibility of negotiating intersectoral or sectoral agreements with national scope. The main element of bipartite social dialogue in Luxembourg relates to the negotiating of collective labour agreements (CLAs).

In addition, at national level, mention should be made of the important role played by the professional chambers in the development of the legislative framework. The Government is required to seek their opinion on draft legislation and regulations relating to economic, financial and social policy: labour law, social security, taxation, the environment, initial and continuing professional training and education.

Social elections

The last social elections took place in 2008. Workers from the private sector elected personnel delegations in companies with more than 15 employees, along with representatives for the Employee Chamber. The elections for the Civil Servants and Public employees Chamber are not organised together with the social elections in the private sector. The last elections took place in 2010.

In the private sector, more than 1.600 delegations were formed in total, comprising almost 6.000 personnel representatives. Some 11 trade unions presented lists of candidates during the elections. In addition, a number of ‘neutral’ candidates with no trade union affiliation were put forward for election. Since the level of trade union membership is relatively low in small companies, many candidates stand for election on independent, neutral lists or on an individual basis. Overall, candidates with no trade union backing represent just over 47% of those elected.

The Independent Trade Union Conferation of Luxembourg (Onofhängege Gewerkschaftsbond Lëtzebuerg, OGBL) [13] put forward some 5.100 candidates in total. This trade union won about 30% of the seats in personnel delegations. The Luxembourg Christian Trade Union Confederation (Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtleche Gewerkschafts-Bond, LCGB) [14] on other hand, achived a smaller proportion of just 15% of the seats. The relative positions of the two trade union confederations have therefore shifted, with OGBL strengthening its position following these workplace elections.

When looking at the trends within sectors, the Luxembourg Association of Bank and Insurance Employees (Associaltion Luxembourgeoise des Employés de Banque et Assurance, ALEBA) [15], a trade union in the financial services sector, also consolidated its position: about 400 of its delegates were elected, constituting almost 7% of the total, despite the fact that it only put forward candidates from a single sector. ALEBA won just 51% of the votes, but failed to succeed in dominating all financial institutions. In this sector, OGB-L maintained 22% of the votes, compared with 12% for LCGB. In the industry sector, OGB-L won the majority of seats in small and medium-sized enterprises, while LCGB strengthened its dominant position in large campanies. This was a particularly important result for the trade union since the whole sector is covered by a single collective agreement. OGB-L also holds a majority in the energy sector. In the food sector, the position is more balanced, with OGB-L holding about 70 seats and LCGB holding only slightly fewer. In this sector, many delegates are ‘neutral’ and collective agreements are infrequent.

In certain sectors, OGB-L is historically dominant and way ahead of the other trade unions. These include the health and social work sector, where OGB-L has about 350 elected representatives compared with LCGB’s 60 representatives and the 20 representatives recorded for all the other lists.

The general trend was also confirmed in the election results for Luxembourg’s Employee Chamber. In this respect, OGB-L won 36 of the 60 seats contested. The Employee Chamber is divided into nine sectoral groups. Altogether, up to 391.026 potential voters took part, and the overall rate of participation was 36%. The highest level of participation was in Group 8 – representing the ‘Active and retired workers in the Luxembourg railways” – which recorded a participation rate over 80%. The lowest level of participation was found in Groups 5 and 3, which represent workers in the services and construction sectors respectively: the participation rate in these sectors amounted to just over 26%, despite the fact that these two branches alone account for 20 seats, representing almost 190.000 workers [16].

The results of the elections for the Civil Servants Chamber show the predominant position of the General Confederation of the Public Service (Confédération Générale de la Fonction Publique, CGFP) [17]. The trade union won the votes of between 94% and 64% of the workers according to the different categories of personnel [18].


Cross-industry level

There are three main structures for tripartite social dialogue: the Tripartite Coordination Committee, the Economic and Social Committee and the Standing Committee on Labour and Employment. Only the last of these has formally assigned roles relating to matters of safety and health, through the law of 21 December 2007 [19] establishing that body. The Tripartite Coordination Committee is not a permanent body. Created in 1977, it brings together representatives of the government (the Minister of Finance, the Minister for the Economy and the Minister of Employment and Labour), the employers (the Chamber of Commerce [20] and Chamber of Trades [21], for example) and the employees (the trade unions). The Tripartite Coordination Committee is chaired by the Prime Minister. Its function is to arrive at a consensus on important economic and social questions that arise. Questions of occupational safety and health are not normally dealt with at this level. Moreover, the opinions issued by the Coordination Committee relate more to an appraisal of the economic and social situation that has prompted the Government to consult it than to the latter’s proposals on how to address the situation [[22]. The Coordination Committee pronounces on the basis of the majority opinion of the members of each of the groups representing the employers and the most representative trade unions at national level respectively; the governmental delegation expresses its viewpoint in line with the position set out within the Government.

Tripartite social dialogue

The Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council (CES) of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the Government’s permanent consultative body with regard to the country’s economic and social orientation. The CES is the central and permanent tripartite reflection body for social dialogue and socioprofessional consultation at national level. Its roles are defined by the law of 15 June 2004 [23].

Composition

The CES consists of 39 full members and 39 deputy members, divided into 3 groups to reflect the country’s socio-economic structure:

  • 18 employers’ representatives appointed by the Government on the proposal of the most representative professional organisations (13 representatives of the companies, 3 representatives of agriculture and viticulture, 2 representatives of the liberal professions).
  • 18 employees’ representatives appointed by the Government on the proposal of the most representative professional organisations at national level (14 representatives of private-sector employees, 4 representatives of civil servants or public-sector employees)
  • 3 representatives appointed directly by the Government with recognised competence in the economic, social and financial fields. As a general rule, the members of this group are senior civil servants with expertise on the economy, finance and social security.

The full members and deputy members are appointed for a four-year term.

Formal opinions

As well as supporting social dialogue at national level, the CES’s role is to issue during the first quarter of every year a formal opinion on the country’s economic, social and financial situation. Apart from this, it pronounces on any specific question submitted to it by the government. Outside of the assignments entrusted to it by the regulatory framework, the CES also has the possibility of studying any economic, social or financial issue which seems to require examination, on its own initiative.


The Standing Committee on Labour and Employment

The Standing Committee on Labour and Employment was created by the law of 21 December 2007 [24]. Its tasks are listed in the Labour Code in Art. L. 651-1 and following [25]. The Standing Committee on Labour and Employment, which was set up to report to the minister in charge of Labour, is responsible for regularly examining the situation with regard to unemployment, working conditions and workers’ safety and health.

Composition

The Committee consists of the following members:

  • 4 members representing the Government: the minister responsible for Labour and Employment, three ministers to be appointed by the Government from the ministers responsible for the Economy, Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, National Education and Professional Training, Social Security, Transport, the Civil Service, Administrative Reform and Equal Opportunities.
  • 4 representatives of the employees from the trade unions which are representative at national level in the private and public sectors, or their deputies;
  • 4 representatives of the employers, to be appointed by the representative organisation(s) of Luxembourg companies and representing industry, craft activity, retail, hotel and restaurant management, banking and insurance, or their deputies.

Formal opinion

Within the framework of its role with regard to working conditions and workers’ safety and health, the Committee oversees the situation of and changes in the following in particular:

  • the application of legislation on:
    1. the protection of workers’ safety and health,
    2. employment law, and
    3. relations between the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines and the employers and workers;
  • the development of systems for the protection of the workers’ physical and mental health;
  • the development of a network of information and competencies for the employers and workers;
  • collaboration with partners external to the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines;
  • encouraging social dialogue between the employer and workers’ representatives within companies.

The Committee may advise the ministers concerned to take the decisions necessary to adjust the actions and functioning of the administrations falling within their respective spheres of competence, and in particular of the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines.

Bipartite social dialogue

The main purpose of national bipartite social dialogue is the formation of collective labour agreements (CLA). Trade unions with general national representativeness and national or sectoral employers’ organisations, or those representing one or more branches, professions or types of activity, may enter into national, interprofessional or sectoral agreements with the potential to be declared generally obligatory. They then apply to all employers and workers in the profession to which they relate. The declaration that an agreement is generally obligatory is made by the publication of a Grand-Ducal regulation. Article L.165-1 of the Labour Code precisely sets out the object of such agreements and the procedure to be followed for it to be declared generally obligatory [26].

Trade unions’ representativeness

The law of 30 June 2004 [27] introduced the conditions under which trade unions can claim national and/or sectoral representativeness. The provisions set out in the Labour Code were subsequently amended by the law of 20 Augustus 2008 due to the introduction of the single status for workers by the law of 13 May 2008 [28].

Generally speaking, trade unions must have the necessary resources to assume their responsibilities, but must also demonstrate through the results of social elections that they have sufficient support from the voters. Thus an organisation claiming general national representativeness must have obtained at least 20% of the votes at the most recent elections to the Chamber of Employees. Moreover, the trade union must be genuinely active in most of the country’s economic sectors; this presence is verified on the basis of the results obtained by the trade union in the last election to the personnel delegations.

The trade unions will be representative in a particularly important sector of the economy if they have sufficient resources to assume their responsibilities, and in particular to support the workers in the sector at sectoral level. The sector is regarded as important nationally if it accounts for at least 10% of all private-sector employees and has more than one company.

Content of CLAs

On pain of being declared null and void, a CLA, regardless of the level at which it is negotiated, must set working and salary conditions (or, in the case of a CLA at the level of a sector or branch of activity, the concrete arrangements by which these matters are determined at the most appropriate level, e.g. company level). All CLAs must include arrangements concerning the inclusion within the scope of the collective agreement of provisions to combat sexual and other harassment, including mobbing, and sanctions, including those of a disciplinary nature, to be taken in this connection.

Company level

There is no negotiating body specifically for occupational health and safety in Luxembourg. In general terms, the provision of information and consultation take place with the personnel delegation and/or joint committee. Competencies relating to health and safety are among the roles allocated to these bodies. However, it should be noted that within the personnel delegations, a member is appointed to perform roles specific to these questions: this is the safety delegate.

Indirect participation

Personnel delegation

A personnel delegation must be established at any company regularly engaging at least 15 workers by means of an employment contract, regardless of the nature of its activities, its legal form and its sector[29].

The same applies to any public-sector employer regularly engaging at least 15 workers by a contract for the hire of services other than those whose labour relations are governed by a public law or equivalent status (civil servants and public-sector workers).


Missions

The general role of personnel delegations is to safeguard and defend the interests of the company’s personnel with regard to working conditions, job security and the personnel’s employment status. However, it should be noted that the personnel delegations are not competent in cases where the law has made provision for an express competence for the company’s joint committee, and such a committee has been established at the company (companies of 150 workers or more).

Whereas one of the roles of the personnel delegation is to contribute to the prevention of work accidents and diseases, the legal framework stipulates that it must appoint from among its members a safety delegate to whom specific roles are entrusted.

The safety delegateThe safety delegate has the right to intervene with the employer and ask for measures to be taken to mitigate any risk for the workers and eliminate sources of danger.

Under Article L.312-8 of the Labour Code, safety delegates are entitled to receive appropriate training in occupational safety and health. Such training is provided outside the training leave for personnel delegates. Its content has been defined by the Grand-Ducal regulation of 27 September 2004 determining the arrangements for the training of safety delegates[30]. It is intended to prepare the delegate for the specific roles assigned to him by the regulations.

The safety delegate’s missions

The safety delegate’s main action consists of performing a tour of inspection, accompanied by the head of establishment or his representative, at the establishment’s headquarters or at its worksites or other work locations of a temporary nature.

The safety delegate records the results of his observations in a special register. His report is countersigned by the head of establishment or his representative who has accompanied him on the tour of inspection. The register is kept at the establishment’s office, where the inspection and verification personnel of the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines may examine it. Should any of the observations require immediate intervention by the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines, the safety delegate has the right to contact the administration directly; however, he must simultaneously inform both the head of establishment or his representative and the personnel delegation.

If the safety delegate deems it necessary, tours of inspection may be carried out every week. Their length and frequency must be adapted to the size of the company and the complexity of the facilities to be inspected. For worksites or other work locations of a temporary nature of establishments with a salaried personnel of no more than 150 workers, the tour of inspection may only be made with the prior agreement of the head of establishment or his representative. In administrative services, no more than two tours of inspection may be made per year.

The safety delegate will be called upon to accompany the inspection and verification personnel of the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines during its service tours if necessary, and to assist them with the investigation of accidents.

He has the right to ask the employer to take appropriate measures and may make proposals for such measures, in order to deal with any risk for the employees.

Informing and consulting the safety delegate

The head of establishment is required to inform and consult the safety delegate on :

  • the assessment of risks to safety and health at work, including those concerning groups of workers subject to particular risks;
  • the protective measures to be taken and, if necessary, the protective equipment to be used;
  • the declarations to be submitted to the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines with regard to work accidents and diseases;
  • any action which could have a significant impact on safety and health;
  • the appointment of workers to engage in protection and prevention activities with respect to the occupational risks at the company/establishment;
  • the measures taken or required with regard to first aid, firefighting and the evacuation of workers;
  • measures to organise the relations required with external services, in particular for first aid, emergency medical assistance, rescue and firefighting;
  • use of capabilities within the company/establishment or outside the company/establishment to organise protection and prevention activities;
  • suitable training for each worker with a view to his/her health and safety.
Joint committee

Luxembourg legislation requires joint company committees to be formed in all industrial, craft or commercial companies in the private sector established on Luxembourg territory and usually engaging at least 150 workers during the last three years [31].

Composition

The joint committee is composed equally of representatives of the employer and of the workers. The number of its members depends on the size of the company’s workforce, with a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 30 members.

The employer’s representatives are appointed by the head of company by whatever means he considers appropriate. They are appointed for the legal duration of the joint committee’s mandate. The personnel representatives within the joint committee are elected by secret ballot, using a list system in accordance with the principles of proportional representation, by the personnel delegation(s), from among the workers employed by the company for at least one year.

Competencies

The competency of the joint committee may be, depending on the subject matter concerned:

  • a decision-making competency
  • a right to information and a consultative competency
  • a monitoring right.

The joint committee has a decision-making competency in the following areas relating to labour relations and the personnel:

  1. the introduction or application of technical facilities to monitor the behaviour and performance of the worker at his/her work station;
  2. the introduction or modification of measures relating to the workers’ health and safety and the prevention of occupational diseases;
  3. the establishment or modification of general criteria relating to personnel selection in connection with the hiring, promotion, transfer or dismissal of workers, and, where applicable, the prioritisation criteria for the admission of workers to early retirement;
  4. the establishment or modification of general criteria for the evaluation of workers;
  5. the establishment or modification of the internal regulations or workshop regulations, taking account of any applicable collective agreements;
  6. the granting of rewards to workers who, through their initiatives or proposals for technical improvements, have provided particularly useful collaboration for the company, without prejudice to the laws and regulations governing patents and inventions.

The information and consultation competencies relate more to the general progress and life of the company than to its economic situation. The monitoring competency relates purely to the management of benefit funds in the company for workers or their families.

It should be noted that the government passed a bill in February 2013 with a view to abolishing the joint committees and transferring all their competencies to the personnel delegation. If this bill is ratified, the personnel delegation will become the sole information, consultation and co-decision body in companies [32]. The reason for this change is mainly to be found in the fact that the role of the two structures is redundant. By transferring the competenties of the Joint Committee to the personnel delegation a large proportion of companies are equipped with a single structure of social dialogue.


Direct participation of workers in connection with well-being

Art. L. 312-7 of the Labour Code [33] states that at companies where there is no personnel delegation (those with fewer than 15 workers), the employers must consult the employees directly and enable them to participate in all questions affecting safety and health at work. This involves, in addition to consultation, the right of workers to make proposals.

Employees participate on a balanced basis or are consulted in advance and in good time by the employer with regard to:

  • any action which may have significant effects on safety and health;
  • the appointment of the worker(s) with the role of assisting in the management of prevention and those appointed in connection with the application of the regulations on first aid and fire prevention, as well on prevention activities entrusted to an external service when there are insufficient competencies internally;
  • information on risk evaluation, preventive measures and work accidents;
  • the design and organisation of safety training for the workers.

References

  1. Law of 4 april 1924 creating professionnal chambers. Available at : [1]
  2. Chambre des Salariés Luxembourg (2013). Homepage. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [2]
  3. Chambre des Fonctionnaires et Employés publics (2013). Homepage. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [3]
  4. Portail de la fonction publique (2013). Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [4]
  5. Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community - Joint declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on employee representation, OJ L 080 , 23.03.2002, p. 0029 – 0034. Available at: [5]
  6. Law of 9 May 2008 amending the Labour Code and transposing the Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community (French). Available at: [6]
  7. Law of 17 June 1994 on safety and Health at work (French). Available at: [ http://www.legilux.public.lu/leg/a/archives/1994/0055/a055.pdf#page=12]
  8. Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. Available at: [7]
  9. Labour Code. (French) Available at: [8]
  10. Law of 8 June 1994 implementing the framework directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work for public institution (French). Available at: [9]
  11. Conseil Economique et Social (2013). Home page. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [10]
  12. Tripartite Coordination Committee. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [11]
  13. OGB-L (2013). Home page. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [12]
  14. LCGB (2013). Home page. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [13]
  15. ALEBA (2013). Home page. Retrieved on 22 February, from: [14]
  16. Wlodarski, O. (2013). Trade union federation in strong position after workplace elections. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [15]
  17. Confédération Générale de la Fonction Publique (2013). Home page. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [16]
  18. Chambre des Fonctionnaires et des Employés Publics (2013). Results of the elections of March 2010 (French). Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [17]
  19. Law of 21 December 2007 creating a Standing Committee on Labour and Employment (French). Available at: [18]
  20. Chamber of Commerce (2013). Homepage. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [19]
  21. Chamber of Trades (2013). Homepage. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [20]
  22. Clément, Franz. ‘Les relations professionnelles tripartites : le cas du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg’, Thèse de doctorat, CNAM, Paris, , 2011, 398 p. Available at: [21]
  23. Law of 15 June 2004 modifying the law of 21 March 1966 creating an Economic and Social Council and Grand-Duchal Decret of 15 June 2004 determining the employer and employee distribution within the Economic and Social Council. (French) Available at: [22]
  24. Law of 21 December 2007 creating a Standing Committee on Labour and Employment (French). Available at: [23]
  25. Labour Code. (French) Available at: [24]
  26. Labour Code. (French) Available at: [25]
  27. Law of 30 June 2004 on collective labour relations (French). Available at: [26]
  28. Law of 13 May 2008 introducing a single status for private-sector employees, Available at: [27]
  29. Labour Code. (French) Available at: [28]
  30. Grand-Ducal regulation of 27 September 2004 determining the arrangements for the training of delegates. Available at: [29]
  31. Labour Code. (French) Available at: [30]
  32. Portail citoyen (2013) – Conseil de gouvernement: dialogue social au sein des enterprises. Retrieved on 22 February 2013, from: [31]
  33. Labour Code. (French) Available at: [32]

Links to further reading

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER): Managing safety and health at work, European Risk Observatory Report, 2010. Available at: [33]

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Worker representation and consultation on health and safety: An analysis of the findings of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), 2012, Available at:[34]

EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012-13 – Working together for risk prevention, 2012, Available at: [35]

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Health and safety at work in SMEs: Strategies for employee information and consultation, 2010. Available at: [36]

Eurofound – European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Social dialogue and working conditions, 2011. Available at: [37]

Eurofound - European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Workplace employee representation in Europe, 2012. Available at : [38]

ETUI - European Trade Union Institute, The impact of safety representatives on occupational health. A European perspective, Report 107, 2009. Available at: [39]

Chambre de commerce Luxembourg, Staff representation in companies, 2013 Available at: [40]

Guide pratique du délégué à la sécurité: Agir au quotidien au côté des salaries, Chambre des Salariés, 2001 (in French). Available at: [41]

NACE: [[Property:NACE|]], [[Property:NACE tertiary education|]]