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Which trade union you can join in Luxembourg and how

Trade unions play a key role in the industrial relations system in Luxembourg. Their more than century-long history is full of highlights, protests, actions and hundreds of people's stories who found support in these organizations. In this guide we will learn about the history of trade unions, their responsibilities and how to choose the right organization, how to join and what to do if your rights have been violated.

Last time updated
15.05.24

In Luxembourg, workers' interests are represented at two levels: in one of five professional chambers and in trade unions. In the first case, registration is mandatory; in the second, membership is voluntary. Both employees and employers can join a union on a voluntary basis.

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Trade unions are a key element of the industrial relations system in Luxembourg. Their primary role is the protection of workers' rights and interests. The history of trade unions in the Grand Duchy dates back to the early 20th century, and today they have become an essential part of the country's social and economic development. To this day, Luxembourg's trade unions actively influence the country's legislation and protect the rights and freedoms of workers in the Grand Duchy.

Source: OGBL website

What influence Luxembourg's trade unions have

Trade unions can not only influence internal changes in Luxembourg, but also participate in policies at the European level. In addition, the members of the organizations support workers and their families, help foreigners to adapt and protect their interests. Here are some important points in the activities of the trade unions.

Political impact
Social issues
Common European policy
Adaptation and support for expats and cross-border workers
Educational activities
123 000
total number of trade union members in Luxembourg for 2019
57%
The level of coverage of collective bargaining agreements in 2019

According to the latest data from the Qery platform, around 28% of all employees in Luxembourg are union members. Don't let the number fool you — this is a very good result compared to the rest of Europe. In neighboring France, for example, only 8.9% of employees are union members, while in Germany the figure is 16.3%.

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Source: qery.no

However, the number of employees in Luxembourg, as well as in the EU as a whole, has decreased: if we take the period from 2002 to 2019, the decrease in terms of numbers is noticeable, from 44% to 28%.

This is probably due to the growing number of foreign workers. They may not be fully aware of the benefits of joining unions, which are productive and effective in protecting the rights of workers in a country. Some unions even offer their members advice on filling out and filing tax returns, such as the OGBL, one of the three largest unions in Luxembourg, which we will introduce to you.

Luxembourg's trade unions are now powerful organizations that have influence even on the European stage. All this has been made possible in part by their rich history of growth and development.

A brief historical background

For more than a century, trade unions have been active in Luxembourg. Through their history of development and transformation, it is clear to see the economic and social changes of the country. Through periods of industrialization, wars and crises, trade unions have always played a key role in protecting the rights of workers in the Grand Duchy.

Creation of Trade Unions (1916-1921)
The First World War (1921-1945)
Golden age (1945-1970)
Financial globalization (1970-2000)
The modern period (2000 — today)

Luxembourg's trade unions can now be divided into two main groups: confederations, i.e. the largest unions, and smaller independent unions.

Confederations, the largest unions

They do not defend the interests of a specific group of workers, but operate nationwide. The special feature of these unions is that they communicate quickly with the authorities. When something happens, the government usually consults with representatives of these unions. This was the case, for example, when they discussed the indexation of wages.

OGBL
Luxembourg Confederation of Independent Trade Unions
Luxembourg Confederation of Independent Trade Unions The OGBL is the largest trade union in Luxembourg (71,000 members), representing various sectors of the economy. The organization has a multi-level structure, with sectoral and local divisions. The OGBL is independent of political parties, but the union has historical ties to the LSAP party. In terms of political and social activity, the OGBL participates in various consultative and regulatory activities; influences the development and implementation of social solutions aimed at protecting labor rights, improving the living and working conditions of workers; participates in the Tripartite Committee. The OGBL pays particular attention to the protection of the rights of expats and cross-border workers, supporting them and helping them to integrate in Luxembourg.
LCGB
Luxembourg Christian Trade Union Federation
Luxembourg Christian Trade Union Federation The LCGB is the second largest trade union in Luxembourg with around 43,000 members. It has a multi-level structure and represents workers from different sectors. Closely connected to Christian social values, the LCGB is actively involved in collective bargaining and social dialogue. The union contributes to the formation of public policy by promoting the development of measures in favor of workers. It also defends the rights of expatriate and cross-border workers, stressing the importance of solidarity and justice in industrial relations at national and international levels.
CGFP
General Confederation of Public Servants
The CGFP plays an important role in supporting workers and defending their rights in Luxembourg. The union has a total membership of around 31,000 employees, including civil servants in various categories. The CGFP is an important advocate for the rights and interests of civil servants in Luxembourg, actively participating in social dialogue and collective bargaining, and influencing the formation of public policy in the field of labor relations and social protection.

These three confederations are well known in Luxembourg and are the most widespread. However, there are also unions with fewer members, but which enjoy greater respect and influence in the Grand Duchy.

Independent unions

Luxembourg's independent unions play an important role in representing the interests of certain workers. These organizations are not part of the confederations discussed above. Independent unions focus on narrowly defined sectors or specific professions, such as teachers, railway workers and local government employees.

ALEBA
The union specializes in banking and insurance workers in Luxembourg. It has a total membership of about 10,000. ALEBA representatives have repeatedly emphasized that the union has a politically neutral status (i.e. it is not officially affiliated and does not support any party or course), but is actively involved in collective bargaining and social dialogue, seeking to improve working conditions and protect the rights of employees in the financial sector.
APESS
The union represents teachers and other education workers in Luxembourg. In addition to improving working conditions, one of the union's main goals is to improve and transform education standards. APESS is also interested in international activism, especially in defending the rights of foreign workers and helping them integrate in Luxembourg.
FGFC
The union, which has about 5,000 members, represents local government and public service employees. Like other unions, the FGFC is active in shaping public policy and is involved in issues such as improving working conditions, protecting workers' rights and protecting foreign workers.
NGL-SNEP
The NGL union was formed by merging several other organizations: the NGL itself (which advocated for blue-collar workers), the LHA (which represented the rights of craft workers), and the SNEP (which defended workers at Goodyear, Luxair, and DuPont). In this way, the NGL became one of the largest independent and politically neutral unions in Luxembourg.
ACEN
This union represents employees in the education sector. Only employees of the Lëtzebuergescher Schoul can become members. It is a relatively young organization, existing since June 18, 2014. On average, this organization has about 200 members.
FCPT-Syprolux
FCPT is an organization for railway employees, it has been in existence since 1955. This union is also represented in the ETF (European Transport Workers' Federation). The union advises on social issues, provides legal defense in professional disputes, helps with tax returns, insurance and many other problems.
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The other unions are affiliated in one way or another to the three confederations. For example, the FLTL, one of the oldest unions in the country, joined the OGBL in 2005, while SPAL and SPFP are affiliated to the CGFP.

Professional associations and employers' organizations are an important part of the industrial relations system in Luxembourg.

The relationship between trade unions, professional associations and employers' organizations in Luxembourg is characterized by a complex system of social partnership and dialogue aimed at developing the economy and improving working conditions. In general, however, all these organizations share a common goal: to defend the rights and freedoms of Luxembourg's workers.

Elections to the Chambers
The professional chambers play a key role in Luxembourg's labor relations system. They provide a platform for the representation of workers' interests in dialogue with the government and parliament. Trade unions actively participate in the elections to these chambers to ensure that the interests of their members are represented at the national level.
Tripartite negotiations
Employers' organizations, such as the Union of Luxembourg Enterprises (UEL), play a key role in social dialogue and tripartite negotiations with unions and the government. They represent business interests in discussions on economic and social reforms aimed at developing Luxembourg's economy and labor market.
Collective bargaining
Trade unions and employers' organizations engage in collective bargaining to discuss working conditions, wages and other important aspects of employment relations. This interaction takes place both at the sectoral level and at the level of individual companies.
Common strategies
Both sides face common challenges, such as the need to adapt to new economic conditions, digitalization and globalization. Trade unions and employers' organizations recognize the importance of dialogue and cooperation to find balanced solutions that promote economic growth and social stability.

The Chambers were established to represent the interests of different workers. These institutions play an important role in the political dialogue with the authorities on legislative and regulatory proposals. As far as employers' organizations are concerned, they are active in negotiating with the government on the socio-economic development of the country.

Professional chambers
Employers' organizations

Joining a union in Luxembourg is a hot topic for many workers who want to improve their terms of employment and protect their rights. In general, the process of joining a trade union is not too complicated. You usually need to complete an application form, pay an initiation fee and wait for the organization's response.

Here is a brief list of the steps involved in joining a union:

  1. Find out which unions exist in Luxembourg

    Choose the ones that represent your industry or profession and match your values and outlook.

  2. Compare the terms and conditions of each union

    Also research their requirements for joining.

  3. Make sure you can join the union of your choice

    Check that you meet the eligibility criteria, e.g. you must be a teacher in Luxembourg if you choose APESS.

  4. Contact the representatives or local branches of the unions you are interested in

    This can be done in person or by e-mail. Ask questions about membership requirements, benefits and how the union supports its members.

  5. Fill out an application for membership

    Some unions, such as ALEBA, have an application form on their website. If you can't find and fill out an application quickly, you can request one from the union of your choice. When filling out the application form, be sure to provide accurate personal information, including your name, contact information, occupation, place of employment, and any other relevant details. If the union asks you to attach any documents, you should send them as well.

  6. Submit the completed form to the union

    This can be done online, in person at a local office, by paper mail, and other methods. It depends on the union's requirements.

  7. Wait for approval

    It will take some time for the union to process your application. If your application is approved, they may send you a confirmation by e-mail or mail. It is less common to be notified by phone.

  8. Pay your fees

    Find out what dues you will be required to pay as a new member.

  9. Get involved in the life of the union

    Attend union meetings, lectures, seminars and other events to learn about workers' rights, collective bargaining and industry developments. Also take advantage of union services, such as legal advice or representation in labor disputes. Stay informed about your rights as a union member and any changes in labor laws or regulations affecting your industry.

  10. Get to know each other

    Share experiences, problems, and solutions.

When choosing where to join, the biggest unions come to mind first. There are three of them: OGBL, LCGB and the name of the last one I forget, unfortunately. It would seem obvious that you should join one of these federations, but I chose another union for myself. It is also quite large, but still much smaller than those giants. It's called Aleba. Two factors influenced my choice: 1) The union has positioned itself as an organisation for public and bank employees. 2) They turned out to have an adequate website where everything is clear and everything works =)

Usually, when you are choosing and researching unions, you will already know what issues the organization deals with and how to file a complaint if your rights are violated. For example, the OGBL website has a special page on their website where all possible problems are collected. All you have to do is send an email to the union officer, explaining your case in as much detail as possible. If necessary, attach photos or other documents.

In addition, once your membership application has been approved, you will receive a reply letter with all of the important contact information, as well as contact information for people you can talk to if you have any questions.

What you need to file a union complaint
Check it out again
In fact, the requirements here are not that high.
*The mandatory items are marked with red asterisks.
Read the information on the website
Find a person to contact
Write a letter
Describe your case and any related issues in as much detail as possible
Attach photos or documents
If necessary, e.g. if something has broken or an emergency has occurred at your home
Send the letter
And wait for a response from the union
Check it out again
In fact, the requirements here are not that high.
*The mandatory items are marked with red asterisks.

You will be contacted by those responsible for your issue to clarify the nuances. Then the union representatives will resolve the problem collectively (if there are other workers with similar problems) or individually. Some unions also offer paid advice (including legal advice): all the necessary information will be available on the website or sent to you by post.

faq

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How to choose a union in Luxembourg

What you need to join a union

What influence do unions have on Luxembourg politics

What are the three largest and most influential unions in Luxembourg

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We took photos from these sources: OGBL Syndicat No 1 au Luxembourg Facebook page, официальные сайты профсоюзов OGBL, LCGB, CGFP, ALEBA, APESS, FGFC, NGL-SNEP, ACEN, FCPT-Syprolux, qery.no

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