In response to the measures contained in the coalition agreement, the FGTB, CSC and CGSLB trade unions have launched a joint call for strike covering the following action: 24 November: strikes in the provinces of Hainaut, Luxembourg, Limburg and Antwerp; 1 December: strikes in the provinces of Namur, Liège, East and West Flanders; 8 December: strikes in the provinces of Flemish Brabant , Walloon Brabant and in Brussels; 15 December: national strike.
We can therefore expect that work in the companies will be seriously disrupted during these 4 days because certain workers will stop work and/or because of pickets preventing other workers from getting into their workplace.
Public transport is also likely to be disrupted or even stopped. Major traffic jams are expected on the roads.
Some workers will therefore arrive late or will be unable to get to work at all.
Does an employer have to pay staff for the hours 'not worked' due to this strike action?
Absence from work due to strike action relating to the company
The employer must not pay wages to the striking workers on the day of the strike.
Striking workers who are trade union members may receive a day’s ‘strike pay’ paid by their union provided that it has recognized the strike.
Non-striking workers who are prevented from working
No wages will be paid to non-striking workers who are prevented from working because of:
- a strike action in which they do not participate and to the extent that the employer can assign no other tasks;
- pickets at the entrance of the company (or an industrial zone);
- a strike action in another company (supplier, customer, subcontractror, ... of the company).
These workers may receive temporary unemployment benefits due to strike action on condition that the managing committee of the ONEm (National Employment Office), approves.
NB! For granting this authorization, the managing committee examines in particular whether the workers belong to the work unit in which there are striking workers and whether they may have an interest in the outcome of the strikers' demands. In case of a general strike, the managing committee of the ONEm usually decides not to grant unemployment benefits.
Absence from work due to strike action on public transport
Under Article 27, 1° of the Employment Contract Act of 3 July 1978, full daily wages are due to the worker if, at the time of reporting to work, he is able to work and if he, getting to the place of work in a normal way, arrives late or fails to turn up at all, provided that this delay or absence are due to a cause that occurred on the way to work and that is independent of his will.
Workers who arrive late or do not arrive at all at their place of work because of the strike action of public transport staff can, in principle, not be entitled to wages for the hours not worked.
The strikes were in fact announced several days ago. The media widely reported this information. The reason for the delay or absence at work (strike by public transport staff) is therefore not unexpected and comes before the worker's departure. Consequently, the worker could have made alternative arrangements to arrive to work on time.
=> Still, a good degree of common sense and understanding is required. Even if the worker takes all necessary measures (e.g. leaving earlier), he is not always sure whether he will arrive to work on time. It is also possible that the worker cannot make it into work because it is impossible to use his own car, he cannot be taken to work by a colleague or go on foot.
To avoid any subsequent dispute, employers are strongly urged to notify all their workers in advance that no wages will normally be granted to any worker for hours not worked on Mondays 24 November, 1 December, 8 December and 15 December 2014, either as the result of participation in strike action, inability to work due to strike action in the company (or in a third company) or a strike by public transport staff.
Workers who do not wish to suffer any loss of pay may, by agreement with their employer, take a day’s holiday or time off in lieu.
Author: Catherine Legardien