Statistics on collective redundancies

Since 2011, the Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue has published quarterly statistics on collective redundancies on the website www.employment.belgium.be. The number of collective redundancies announced in 2017 was remarkably low: 3,829. Compared to the record years 2012-2013, there was even a drop by 77%! However, the beginning of 2018 was another tough period, with 2,405 jobs in the first quarter.

Figures strongly influenced by large corporations

The apparently decreasing trend of 2017 was broken right at the start of 2018. In the month of January 2018, there was a large restructuring which was felt in all statistics: at the end of January, Carrefour announced the lay-off of 1,233 workers (of a total of 9,225). That same month, there were also announcements from Medtronic (317 jobs), Nyrstar Belgium (121 jobs) and Sanoma Media Belgium (96 jobs). It is not a good idea to make predictions or draw conclusions based on these figures, because one or two large companies with a lot of employees – and hence a high potential loss of jobs – can substantially affect the figures.

90 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 this 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 on the floor 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 2017 show that the average duration of this information and consultation procedure is 90 days. In approximately 60% of cases, the notification was made within 90 days, and in nearly 20% of cases within 30 days. In slightly over 25% of cases, this phase lasted longer than 120 days.

Worst hit sectors: metal, distribution and agro-food

During the period from January 2017 to December 2017, when it comes to the number of employees involved in an announcement of an intention to make collective redundancies, the metal-processing industry (Bombardier and Wendt Board), the distribution sector (Blokker, Casa and C&A) and the agro-food sector (Coca-Cola and Mondelez) were hit the hardest. Here as well, we must be careful before drawing conclusions due to the biased figures caused by a few large companies.

1,334 jobs saved after Renault Act procedure

While the figures above refer to the information and consultation procedures that were started in 2017, it is also important to look at the figures on the information and consultation procedures that were completed in 2017. Of the initial 8,124 employees involved in an announcement of an intention to make collective redundancies in 67 technical business units who completed their information and consultation procedure in 2017, after the information and consultation procedure 6,790 employees were affected by collective redundancy. This means that thanks to the mandatory internal consultations between the employer and the unions in the framework of the Renault procedure, in the end 1,334 jobs were saved.

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