Brussels, 8th of November 2022,
As you know, the three Belgian trade union confederations proclaimed, by 9 November, a day of action and strike all over Belgium.
The topics are the purchasing power crisis, rising energy prices and the likely lack of wage margin to negotiate next January.
Although many of the problems afflicting Belgian workers do not affect officials and other servants of the European institutions in the same way or with the same gravity, we believe that, especially for our trade union, the staff of the institutions, without joining the protest day or the strike, should be able to express their solidarity with Belgian workers.
This is all the more true for our trade union, which shares the principles underlying the European trade union movement, to which Union Syndicale is proud to be affiliated.
It is for these reasons that we consider it important to take part in this strike movement and to support workers’ movements throughout Europe during this period (Germany, Spain, Greece, etc.).
Union Syndicale had written to DG HR to allow Commission staff to participate in the events that will take place on 9 November during working hours in Belgium and especially in Brussels to grant a day of special leave to all those who decide to be absent from work to participate in the events.
Unfortunately, the Director-General of DG HR has decided that she will not grant any day of special leave to staff wishing to take part in this social movement and informs us that “Such special leave is, in constant practice, granted for exceptional events, most of the time beyond the control of the staff concerned. Voluntary participation in a local social movement cannot be part of this framework. On the other hand, I would remind you that staff members have several options to be able to take part in all or part of this national social movement (flexitime recuperation or annual leave), which must be requested by SYSPER and subject to the agreement of the line manager“.
If this formula was not acceptable to the Commission, Union Syndicale had also submitted, in accordance with Article 36 of the Framework Agreement between the representative trade unions and the Commission’ signed on 18.12.2008, a strike notice in order to “cover” the absence of colleagues who decide to be absent on 9 November and who do not wish or cannot take a day of leave.
This request was rejected by DG HR “… in so far as the proposed strike day is considered to be illicit since it is a solidarity strike with a national movement which concerns demands on which the European Commission cannot act and which do not allow it to negotiate with the trade union calling for the strike”.
Union Syndicale regrets this position of the administration and recalls that the right to strike cannot be reduced to an instrument of relations with the employer as claimed by DG HR. In fact, the strike, from its inception, was seen as a political instrument.
The HR’s response is well in line with her trend in recent years to reduce trade union rights. Do you imagine a democracy in which the boss decides whether a strike is legal or not? The obligation of the administration to give notice (which is not a strike statement) would have been to convene a conciliation meeting, in accordance with the framework agreement mentioned above.
Union Syndicale will bring this matter to the relevant bodies.