Missing the significant impact of telecom company Proximus
With a total of 5,087 announced collective redundancies, 2019 lies somewhere in the middle. One remark must be made in light of this slight decline: the high-profile restructuring at the telecom company Proximus, which jeopardised 1,900 jobs, was not included in these figures because, as a public company, it is not subject to collective redundancy legislation.
81 days at the negotiating table on average
To be clear: an announcement of an intention to make collective redundancies (Article 6 of the Royal Decree of 24 May 1976 on collective redundancy) means the start of the information and consultation procedure. During the first phase, the members of the works council can ask all kinds of questions about the planned restructuring, and formulate alternative proposals to mitigate the consequences. There is no legal limit on the duration of this first phase. The employees in the workplace usually ask that this phase be kept as short as possible in order to end the excruciating uncertainty about who will finally be laid off, and under what conditions. Figures for 2019 show that the average duration of this information and consultation procedure is 81 days. In approximately 45% of cases, the notification was made within 60 days, and in nearly 70% of cases within 120 days. Due to a number of extremely long or short cases, it is important to mention that most organisations are somewhere in the middle and signed the procedure within the 60 days.
Flanders and the metal industry under the most pressure
In the period January 2019 to December 2019, more than half of the jobs at risk were in Flanders. The province of Antwerp was top of the list with a total of 1,230 jobs.
In 2019, the metal industry was the most severely affected and was responsible for no less than 1,533 of the 5,087 jobs at risk. The most significant number of collective redundancies announced was at the steel company NLMK Clabecq, where 290 jobs were threatened. The steel wire manufacturer Bekaert (281 jobs) and the double announcement at the car-component factory Punch Powertrain (188 plus 120 jobs) also contributed to this result.
In addition, the distribution sector ended up in the news with its closure of 16 Match and Smatch supermarkets (210 jobs) and the round of redundancies at the biscuit manufacturer Mondelez (201 jobs).
Following the Renault Act, almost no difference in the number of lost jobs
While the figures above refer to the information and consultation procedures that were started in 2019, it is also important to look at the figures on the information and consultation procedures that were completed in 2019.
The number of employees affected by collective redundancy in 2019 was almost identical to the number of employees involved when announcing the collective redundancy. Of the initial 4,526 employees involved in the announcement of a collective redundancy in the 65 technical business units who completed their information and advisory procedure in 2019, 4,311 employees were actually affected by collective redundancy. Compared with 2018 (9%) and 2017 (16%), the obligatory internal discussions between the employer and trade unions within the framework of the Renault procedure succeeded in saving only a relatively small number of jobs in 2019: 215 or 4.7%.