Employment Update, Belgium - October 2007



Belgium - Social elections 2008

The Act of 20 September 1948 regarding the organisation of the economy, which instituted the creation of Works Councils as organs of information and consultation of the workers’ representatives, currently provides for a threshold of 50 workers.

Specific legislation with respect to the social elections, which until now have taken place every four years, was enacted to enable the threshold for Works Council to be raised to 100 workers.

On March 11, 2002, the European Parliament enacted Directive 2002/14/CE establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community. Member States thereby had the choice of implementing the information and consultation rules either in all companies with at least 50 employees or in all establishments with at least 20 workers.

Because Belgium failed to fully implement this Directive in its national legislation within the prescribed period of three years, the Commission issued a reasoned opinion against Belgium in December 2005, indicating that it appeared to be in breach of its obligations under the Directive.

The Commission decided to refer a case against Belgium to the European Court of Justice and, on 29 March 2007, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) handed down its ruling in case C-320/06 Commission vs Belgium. A finding was made against Belgium for failing to implement European Directive 2002/14/EC of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community.

Disagreement between the social partners on both the definition of an enterprise and the applicable threshold (20 or 50 employees) to be adopted, as well as on the status and size of the employee representation that will hold the information and consultation rights is the main cause of the delay in transposing the EU directive into Belgian law.

In this context, the organisation of next year's social elections was put at risk.

On 21 September 2007, the Belgian Council of Ministers approved a decision to present Belgium’s parliament with a bill confirming, on a temporary basis, the threshold of 100 workers habitually employed for introducing or renewing a Works Council.

From a practical point of view, this means that the social elections will effectively take place between 5 and 18 May 2008 and that, where applicable, the first steps towards organising these social elections will have to be taken between 7 and 20 December 2007.

Case law

For the period under review there is no relevant case law to be reported.