Plea for more democracy in the works council.
The 17th social elections are just around the corner and are being held between 9 and 22 May 2016. This time around, we will still use various categories of employees: workmen or labourers, office staff and, where there are sufficient numbers, managers and younger workers aged 25 or under. However, since the act of 26 December 2013 took an important step towards a unified status, it is unlikely that the distinction between labourers and office staff will be maintained for much longer for employee representation in consultation bodies.
We can therefore assume social elections in 2020 will take place without this distinction. This was clear from the parliamentary debate on the legislative proposal for the social elections 2016. If we evolve towards just one electoral college for labourers and office staff, we will then have to consider whether it is worth retaining the other categories, i.e. managers and youngsters. These are, of course, minority categories: just 2.4% of voters in elections for Works Councils in 2012 were youngsters; 9.1% were managers and that is why they were given special representation.
On the other hand, however, they do add complexity to social elections and this complexity is already an irritant to a much greater degree than for political elections.
When it comes to managers, there are also issues in terms of definition, which is open to extensive and very heterogeneous interpretation. In some companies, it is a purely theoretical notion that has never been used or has become obsolete over time.
The group of youngsters is diminishing and corresponds to the lowest and a reducing level of participation: just 37% of potential voters in 2012.
Larger companies with a long, union-related history may well continue to lead the field in terms of separate representation for managers. Mainly due to the fact that people in key positions, with high added value, who do not take executive roles, can take part in debates within the works council. The scope of these debates can thus be expanded, polarisation of opinion tempered and a broader spectrum of themes be tackled rather than just day-to-day issues.
There is another, fundamental argument for the retention of this separate management representation: it is the only place in our collective employment law where a limited deviation is permitted from the monopoly of the three traditional unions, in terms of representation. The managers are also permitted to stand for the works council; whether this is a house list specifically for the company or a list from the NCK (National Confederation of Managers).
Even though the non-traditional NCK and the house manager list only collectively attracted 1.5% of all votes or just 16.6% of votes for managers (figures 2012), it is still a fundamentally important exception to lose and to leave representation of the management population to the classic unions. Of course, we can dream and allow the categories to be eliminated by also opening up the option to work with house lists to all categories and for all personnel members. In other words, by evolving into a model with more democracy on a corporate level and no further monopoly for the traditional unions. Why would that not be an option for the works councils, as key bodies in social consultation on a company level?
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Paul Soete - Consultant Industrial Relations
Paul Soete , geboren te Molenbeek, was CEO van Agoria van november 2001 tot mei 2014 , na er sinds 1984 de functies van Directeur van het sociaal departement te hebben uitgeoefend . In het kader van die functies oefende hij meerdere mandaten uit ondermeer in het directiecomite en de raad van bestuur van het VBO, in het beheerscomite van de RSZ en van de RVA, in de Rvb van de Belgische Vereniging van Pensioeninstellingen , van Orgalime ( European Engineering Industries Association ) , de Attentia groep ( HR services), Sirris ( competentiecentrum van de technologische industrie) en zetelde in meerdere paritaire comités .
Sinds 2015 is hij actief als zelfstandig consultant in Industrial Relations . In dat kader werkte hij samen met het advokatenkantoor Tilleman Van Hoogenbemt en was hij verantwoordelijke IR bij Brussels Airlines . Vanaf 2016 is hij tevens Voorzitter van het Beheerscomite van de RSZ.