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The Act of 26 December 2022 amending various provisions on collective labour relations is published (Belgian Official Gazette 27.01.2023).
A slow process has been underway for several years. Several joint committees have seen their boundaries modified, some have been abrogated, others created. Behind this slow work is a process of, among other things, harmonizing the working conditions and wages of the sectors of manual and non-manual workers.
When the scope of a joint committee changes, some employers move from one joint committee to another. Knowing which conditions apply to their workers is crucial. The legislator had already changed the legislation in 2018 by amending article 27 of the law on collective bargaining agreements (CBA) and joint committees. This article determines the temporal application of CBAs. A bill passed in the House further amends this Article 27 and also introduces a new Article 51/1 governing the temporal application of sectoral Royal Decrees.
Article 27 provides for the temporal application of CBAs to employers and their employees who move from one joint committee to another.
In 2018, Article 27 had already been amended in 3 respects.
Since 15 February 2018, Article 27 covers changes in the scope of a joint committee and the creation or abrogation of a joint committee.
These 3 changes are always made by Royal Decree. However, if the activity of an employer changes and as a result the employer changes joint committee, article 27 is not applied.
Since 15 February 2018, Article 27 applies to both "old" workers who were employed when the old joint committee was competent and "new" workers who were employed after the move to the new joint committee.
In 2018, the legislator provided that the CBAs of the old joint committee would continue to apply until the new joint committee concluded a special CBA or a CBA with the same subject matter. However, the possibility of concluding a special CBA was only possible until 31 December 2022. Article 27 was unclear as to what would happen from 2023 onwards.
The social partners have evaluated the 2018 amendment to Article 27. Apart from extending article 27 to the creation and abrogation of joint committees, they wanted to return to the old version of this article. The legislator wanted to follow the opinion of the National Labour Council and adopted again this old version of article 27. However, he retained the extension to the creation and abrogation of joint committees.
Article 27 still covers changes in the scope of a joint committee and the creation or abrogation of a joint committee.
However, it remains unclear which workers are now covered. In fact, the National Labour Council’s advice was to revert to the old version of article 27. The legislator did indeed revert to the old version of this article, which referred only to the “old" workers. Nevertheless, the opinion of the Council of State states that the administration will interpret this article as applying to both old and new workers.
A new competent joint committee for employers may still adopt a special CBA in 2023 to regulate what should happen to previously applicable collective bargaining agreements. The 31 December 2022 deadline has been removed from Article 27.
For companies that have moved from one joint committee to another between 15 February 2018 and 31 December 2022, the new joint committee will also be able to adopt a special CBA if it has not yet done so.
In addition to amending Article 27, this bill also provides that the sectoral royal decrees that applied to the old JC will continue to apply after the move to the new JC. Indeed, there are sector-specific royal decrees that contain provisions on working hours, temporary unemployment and public holidays.
In the event of a change of joint committee, there was no provision for the application of these Royal Decrees. From 2023 onwards, either the old joint committee will issue an opinion indicating which Royal Decrees will continue to apply, or it will not issue such an opinion and all Royal Decrees will continue to apply until they are abrogated or amended.
Both amendments are to come into force on 1 January 2023. The bill has been adopted.
Source: Bill amending various provisions on collective labour relations (55/3019).
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