Belgium ends historic discrimination between white and blue-collar workers

11.07.2013

The Constitutional Court in Belgium has decreed that the status of blue and white-collar workers need to be harmonized, urging the government to eliminate the discrimination between the two types of workers.

The discrimination had been going on for a century and an attempt to stop it had been blocked for 27 years, when the government finally managed to find a compromise in June. It was the solidarity between the two types of workers that made the agreement possible. It means that the classification of blue or white-collar, or manual and non-manual, worker, will disappear. Simply the term “worker” will remain.

The former blue-collar workers seem the most satisfied by the agreement as their notice period will be extended and granted according to seniority. Moreover trial periods have also been scrapped, and all sick days will be paid, whereas before the first day of a sickness was unpaid. However, not all differences between the two types of workers have been withdrawn. The calculation and the payment of annual leave, wage and salary payments, short-time work are still pending and will need to be settled by the Labour Council, a national body.

Employers are afraid that the costs for firing workers will go up. And the unions are afraid that employers will have recourse to more temporary work. The unions will join the negotiations at the Labour Council where the details will be worked out, hopefully in the workers’ interest. The final differences will have to be ironed out by the social partners within a certain deadline.