Fired by voicemail: an EDF worker speaks out

03.08.2017

On 29 June 2017, EDF Luminus management in Belgium abruptly sacked 14 workers. IndustriALL spoke to one of the affected workers.

The sackings, which took place during the annual meeting of the EDF Group’s Committee for Dialogue on Social Responsibility (CDSR), grossly breach the most elementary applicable practices in the gas and electricity sector in the country, and the Agreement on Corporate Social Responsibility signed with IndustriALL Global Union and PSI in 2005 and renewed in 2009.

IndustriALL Global Union spoke to one of the affected workers about what happened.  From one moment to the next, he was out.

He said:

“I was on holidays in France end of June when I received a voice message on my cell phone from my boss, saying that he had very bad news for me and that I no longer had a job.

“I did not have to return to the office anymore, due to the ‘economical context’, my job no longer existed.  I was thunderstruck, not only by the way my dismissal was announced but also by the fact that there had been no indication at all that this was going to happen.

“On the contrary, a few weeks earlier, during a team meeting with the whole department, we were informed that the announced projects were confirmed. My trade union representative has not been informed nor consulted, no other job opportunities within the company or the sector were proposed.   From one moment to the next I was out.”

Following the announcement of those dismissals, Luminus workers, together with national unions, staged protests and strikes at various sites in Belgium to express outrage at this blatant disregard for basic labour rights and lack of consultation with unions, and they asked for international support.

Under pressure from global unions, the Committee of Corporate Social Responsibility (CDSR) and several European trade unions with membership at EDF, Luminus management finally apologized for the way the dismissals were announced in a press release.

But the company refused to reverse the decision and reinstate the workers. Instead, management committed to arrange “personalised follow up” for all the laid-off workers and pledged that more would be done to anticipate this type of situation.

I have been offered outplacement, the support of a career coach to help me in my job search but who will want to hire a guy my age?” said the Luminus worker.

“I have been working for Luminus a long time and I have never had any complaints. I reached my personal targets every year and during performance reviews with my bosses or HR I have always been clear that I was happy in my job and planning to work until I would have to retire at the age of 65. I have been offered no pre-pension arrangement so I am not only out of work but I will also lose all social benefits that I would be entitled to if I would have worked until the age of 65.”

As EDF management is now seeking to launch negotiations for a new CSR agreement, Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Global Union’s Assistant General Secretary said:

“What happened at Luminus is a disgrace. Management’s contempt for the basic rules of social dialogue calls into question their stated determination to renegotiate in good faith”.  

In a joint statement to EDF CEO, Jean-Bernard Lévy, IndustriALL Global Union and PSI urged:

“The satisfactory resolution of the Luminus dispute is critical for us as a step in restoring trust and re-establishing proper conditions for social dialogue and building constructive industrial relations at global level”.