Success for Belgian CESI affiliates: Belgian constitutional court re-affirms the right of collective bargaining, the right to strike and participation to social elections

On July 26 the Constitutional Court of Belgium re-affirmed the annulation of the law of 3 August 2016 regarding railway matters, inserting article 114/1 within the law of July 23 1926 concerning the SNCB (Belgian railway) and the Belgians railway men. The initial request for annulation was introduced by the Syndicat indépendant pour Cheminots (SIC) and others, due to a distinction within the law between different trade unions, which resulted in discrimination, harming 'approved' trade unions such as SIC, an affiliate of CESI's Belgian member UNSP.

Success for Belgian CESI affiliates: Belgian constitutional court re-affirms the right of collective bargaining, the right to strike and participation to social elections

In reaffirming its previous judgment, which CESI has welcomed already, the Court pronounced itself on the three main points: the right to collective bargaining, the freedom of association and the right to participate in social elections.

The court estimated that “taking into account the evolutions of the labour world, in principle and excluding very particular cases, the right to collective bargaining with the employers had become an essential part of the right of association“ and that “the essence of collective bargaining is that it must ensure the possibility for a trade union, not recognized by an employer, to take actions including if necessary to launch strikes actions, so to persuade the employers to engage collective bargaining together on questions the trade union believe to be important for its members interests.”

The court concluded by reaffirming that “although it recognized the right to strike to have limits, the fact that the period of notice for strike and of concertation in social conflicts are reserved only to ‘representative’ and ‘recognized’ trade unions constituted a restriction which is not compatible with the freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining.”

Furthermore, and regarding the right to participate to social elections, the court held that “the attacked provision breaches the right to participate to the democratic process which allows workers to elect their representatives in the respect of trade union pluralism, because it purely and simply excludes the trade unions qualified as ‘approved’ to participate in social elections within the Belgian railway men.”

For CESI and its Belgian affiliates, the judgment is an important reference to underline the rights of independent trade unions in collective bargaining and social elections.

The full judgment is available in French, Dutch and German.

Picture: © SIC 2017