What you need to know about trade unions in Luxembourg

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Artyom is a developer from Siberia who moved to Luxembourg with his wife under the Blue-card programme. Artyom joined a trade union not long ago and agreed to share his impressions.

Luxembourg's trade unions are an important structure both politically and socially. Why this is so, what is the strength of trade unions and why they are so valued by workers.

Фото: sol, Unsplash

Фото: sol, Unsplash

Are the trade unions in Luxembourg different from those in the CIS?

I have never lived anywhere but Russia and Luxembourg, so I can only compare these two countries, and the difference is immediately noticeable. In Russia, trade unions are a bit toy-like, pocket-sized. It seems to me that they were already like that in the Soviet Union. 

By design, a trade union is what? It is an association of workers that defends their interests and protects their rights if they are being infringed upon. That is, if there is a conflict with management, it is the trade union that initiates negotiations on its own behalf and defends workers, organises a strike if necessary, and so on.

In CIS, a trade union is a completely useless organisation, to which you pay dues regularly, and maybe they give you a ticket to the drama theatre at the end of the year. Of course, there is no question of protecting your rights.

In Luxembourg it is completely different. Here, these are organisations that have real power and can influence not only employers but also the country's policy as a whole.

Editor's note: The brightest example of such co-operation is the tripartite meetings that regularly take place in the government. Employers and trade unions are invited to these meetings.

Trade unions can be called a real counterbalance in the labour sphere. Company managers should calculate the possible reaction of the trade union when making a decision.

What it means to be a member of a trade union and how to get there

Being a member of a trade union does not mean that you have to participate in any activities. A trade union is a safety net for a working person, first and foremost. I don't know, like car insurance. It's a little rough, but it's similar. You can drive without it, but you're on your own in the event of an accident. It's the same with a trade union: you don't have to join it at all, but if a conflict situation arises, no one will defend your rights.

Let's be honest, not everyone knows the law or has the legal skills to solve their problems on their own. Therefore, in case of a dispute with your employer, you need someone who has a good understanding of the situation and can protect you: from unfair dismissal, from transfer to part-time employment, etc.

Source: Tim Gouw, Unsplash

When choosing where to join, the biggest unions come to mind first. There are two of them: OGBL, LCGB and the name of the last one I forget, unfortunately. These are powerful organisations that have enough weight to influence landmark decisions.

Editor's note: The third union is the CGFP. In fact, these unions have long been federations. They do not defend the interests of any particular group of workers, but operate nationwide. 

The thing about these unions is that they have much faster communication with the authorities. When something happens, the government usually consults with representatives of these trade unions. This was the case, for example, when they were discussing the indexation of salaries.

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: 

  • The union has positioned itself as an organisation for public and bank employees.
  • They turned out to have an adequate website where everything is clear and everything works =)

When I went to other unions' websites, they looked like they were from the 90s. On some sites I couldn't even find how to apply online.

What documents are required to join

Good question, by the way. I don't even remember. I can speak for Aleba, there's an online form that walks you through the steps. I can say for sure that I didn't put together a huge folder.

Editor's note: Aleba will ask for personal details, Luxembourg residential address, telephone number, bank details for contributions and employer details. Of course, each union may have its own personal list.

Can you get involved in the life of a trade union

If you're willing, yes. But I don't have any special contacts with them yet. They only called once before the social elections, asking if I voted. By the way, while we're on the subject. Social elections are a special procedure, held every 5 years. That is when representatives are chosen to sit in the Luxembourg Chamber of Workers (Chambre des salariés). This is a consultative body of the government to which it turns in difficult situations.

The elections themselves are similar to the others. You can also vote for individuals or for the whole union. Voting is done exclusively by post: you fill in a ballot paper, put it in an envelope, and then put that envelope in another envelope. It's specially pre-paid and pre-filled. You just have to seal it and drop it in the nearest post box.

Source: Ryul Davidson, Unsplash

To be honest, I haven't seen any of the members of the union =D I joined online, and I am rather in virtual space. The only thing they told me was to pay dues. They only have free membership up to 30 years old. The whole thing costs a whopping 15 euros, which for Luxembourg is considered a relatively small outlay. In fact, it's the price of one lunch.

And even though I didn't interact much with the union, I was once offered to run as a representative. I think it works the same way as municipal deputies: if you know the language and have no problems with the law, you can represent the public opinion in the political environment.

In fact, it is quite an interesting, vast and complex area that cannot be covered in one short story. There are many subtleties, many differences that depend on the union chosen. Nevertheless, I recommend you to read it, as the issue is really important for everyone who works in Luxembourg.

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Authors: Aleksandr