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 Belgium

Map of European Industrial Relations

The map provides you with a first insight into the countries’ main differences of their national systems of industrial relations. By pointing over the countries, a small fact box is displayed. Clicking will bring you to the detailed page for this country.


Countries

This section summarises key features of the way industrial relations are arranged in the different member states. Information covers the following topics: trade unions, collective bargaining, workplace representation, board-level representation, European-level representation, health and safety representation and financial participation. It also includes a list of useful links for each country.

Board-level Representation

Employees are not represented at board level in Belgium, except in a handful of publicly-owned companies.

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Workplace Representation

Until recently unions provided the only legally constituted representation for employees at the workplace. However, legislation implementing the EU directive on information and consultation provides for the creation of works councils and large numbers have been set up. Initially, where unions were present, they could dominate the choice of works council members, but this arrangement was judged unconstitutional and new rules mean that works councils must be elected by the whole workforce.

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Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining takes place at both industry and company level and between 35% and 40% of employees are covered. The level of coverage has declined in recent years, and new legislative changes may lead to a further reduction. Company level agreements are important in setting effective wages, leading to substantial variations between companies.

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Collective Bargaining

Industry-level agreements dominate in Austria, and as the employers are normally represented by the chambers of commerce, to which all employers are obliged to belong, the agreements cover almost all employees.

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Financial Participation

Employee share ownership plays no major role in Slovakia. Unlike in other Eastern European economies, the privatization process which started at the beginning of the 1990s did not have a significant impact on the emergence of participation schemes. By contrast, the incidence of profit-sharing in Slovakia is fairly high by European comparison. Financial participation does not enjoy much attention in the public debate at present.

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Financial Participation

Estimates put the number of employees in Austria financially participating in the companies where they work at 100,000 in large companies and a further 60,000 in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). This is about 6% of the total workforce and means that Austria is no longer lagging behind most other European countries (as was the case only a few years ago). Its participation rate now corresponds to the European average.

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European-level Representation

With works councils dominating national employee representation, it is not surprising to find that it is they that choose the representatives in European bodies.

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