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Trade Unions

Union density in Luxembourg is relatively high at around 40% of the workforce. There are two main union confederations, OGB-L and LCCB, with affiliates across the bulk of the economy. The two have ideological differences, although they co-operate fairly closely both at national and European level. There are also other important union groupings in the specific sectors of finance and the public service and one of the public sector confederations, the CGFP is, like the OGB-L and LCCB, represented in the national tripartite structures.

There are some 150,000 trade unionists in Luxembourg, according to the unions’ own figures. Taking account of the 110,000 foreign workers who cross Luxembourg’s frontiers every day and retired members, the national statistics office estimated that 41% of all employees who work in Luxembourg were union members in 2010.1 The ICTWSS database of union membership has a slightly lower estimate of union density – 37.3% in 2008.2

There are two main trade union confederations, the OGB-L with 65,000 members and the LCGB with more than 40,000 (figures from the confederations’ websites)3 and they are the dominant union bodies in the private sector.4

Grouped around both the OGB-L and the LCGB there are associated unions, particularly covering transport (the FNCTTFEL for OGB-L and SPYROLUX for LCGB). The OGB-L and its associated unions come together in the CGT-L, and it is the CGT-L rather than the OGB-L which is affiliated to international bodies, such as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The third union grouping in the banking and insurance sector is the alliance of ALEBA/UEP, the NGL and SNEP, which came together to contest the elections for employee representatives at both national and workplace level in November 2003. ALEBA is the largest union grouping in banks and insurance companies and had almost 13,000 members in 2008 (figure from ALEBA website5 ).

There are also two important public sector unions, the CGFP (civil servants), which has more than 28,000 members, and the FGFC (local government employees), with 4,200 (figures from union websites).6

In 2004, Luxembourg reformed the rules on collective bargaining (see section on collective bargaining) and the representative status of unions: this regulates in particular their right to sign collective agreements and also opens the door to participation in Luxembourg’s tripartite system of social dialogue.

The legislation7 , dated 30 June 2004, only covers the private sector. It aimed to provide a new basis for deciding on union representativeness, following a court case four years earlier, which gave ALEBA national representative status as a union for the first time, despite the fact that it only operates in a single sector.

The 2004 legislation distinguishes between three types of union: those who have national representative status, those who are representative in an important sector of the economy and those who are backed by at least 50% of those covered by a specific collective agreement.

To be nationally representative a union must be active in a majority of the country’s economic sectors and have at least 20% support in the elections for the bodies representing employees. (These have also recently changed their structure – see below.)

To be representative in an important sector of the economy, defined as one in which at least 10% of the private sector employees work, a union must have the support of 50% in the employee body covering that sector.

However, there have been also been changes in the structure of the national bodies representing employees as a result of the legal distinction between manual and non-manual workers being abolished and the introduction of single status for all employees in the private sector. This means that the former separate chambers representing manual and non-manual employees have been replaced by a single chamber of employees for all those working in the private sector. The first elections to this new chamber took place in November 2008 and they were clearly won by the OGB-L. It obtained 36 seats in the chamber, the LCGB won 16 and ALEBA won seven. (All of the ALEBA were in banking and financial services – the elections are based on nine separate industrial categories.) In addition, FNCTTFEL, the rail workers’ federation close to the OGB-L, won another two seats and SPYROLUX, a similar federation close to LCGB won one.

On this basis the OGB-L and the LCGB remain the only two confederations which are nationally representative, although ALEBA is representative in an important area of the economy – banks and insurance. In addition the CGFP has national representative rights in the public sector. In 2010 it won all 22 seats reserved for the employees of central government in the 27-seat chamber for civil servants and public employees. The FGFC, the federation for local government employees, won four of the other five reserved for local government.

The level of support for the main union confederations shown in the elections to the chamber of employees was reflected in the elections of employee representatives (see section on workplace representation) which took place at the same time, with around twice as many OGB-L candidates being elected as LCGB candidates.

Both the OGB-L and the LCGB are divided into federations on an industrial basis. The OGB-L has 15; the LCGB has 11. The CGFP is made up of around 60 affiliated federations and associations in the public sector.

The two main confederations are formally politically independent but they have different political roots. The OGB-L comes from the socialist tradition, while the LCGB’s links are with the Christian Social Party. Despite this their relationships are reasonably harmonious and the two confederations have a joint European secretariat. In 2002, they also set up a joint bureau to deal with the steel industry, following the disappearance of the important domestic steel producer ARBED, which was merged into Arcelor – subsequently taken over by Mittal.

The alliance of ALEBA/UEP, the NGL and SNEP emphasises its party-political independence.

Luxembourg’s unions report that their membership has increased in the recent past. The OGB-L for example reports it currently has 65,000 members, compared with only 46,000 in 1999, while the LCGB reports that its membership has increased from 28,000 to 40,000 over about 10 years.

L. Fulton (2013) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.