DOI: 10.5553/RP/048647002000042001105

Res PublicaAccess_open


Vakbonden en sociaal overleg in het laatste kwart van de XX° eeuw

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Willy Peirens, "Vakbonden en sociaal overleg in het laatste kwart van de XX° eeuw", Res Publica, 1, (2000):105-117

    The unique character of the socio-economic negociations in Belgium has lost much of its glamour and prestige during the last quarter of the 20th century. While before 1975, there was more or less agreement among the social partners to redistribute welfare to the whole society, after the first oil crisis employers tended to see themselves in competition with other employers, with the trade unions and with the state. Both employers' organisations as trade unions wanted to safeguard their own priorities, respectively the competitiveness of the enterprises and the system of indexation. As a consequence, it became very difficult to reach agreements and hence, there have been no or only very small interprofessional agreements signed since 1975. The role of the government in this period evolved from the role of host for the negociations to that of co-actor and finally to director. When no agreement was possible between the social partners, the govenrment itself took the initiative and both trade unions and employers' organisations tried to lobby the government rather than being partners in negociations. The measures of the government, especially those taken with extra-ordinary powers, were often beneficial for the employers. Despite the emphasis by the trade unions on employment, their efforts beared not much fruit. The first priority of both the government and the employers was the enhancement of the financial and the economic situation of the country. Since the interprofessional agreement of 1999-2000, a new period bas begun. Trade unions and employers' organisations are constrained by what happens in the rest of Europe. Between these constaints, they can negociate and conclude agreements on the basis of freedom and responsibility. The level of negociations shifted in this period from the interprofessional level to the level of the sector or even to the level of the enterprise. Another trend is the creation of an institutional framework for social talks on the Flemish level. The challenges for the future are the installation of a European or even an international world-wide institutional framework for social negociations and the development of themes as permanent education, quality of life and work and the enhancement of the socio-economic democracy.

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