Unions and employers have failed to agree on the wage norm and the expenditure of the social envelope in recent months, which put the ball in the government’s court. Negotiations took off on Friday, but today there is still white smoke.
– The wage norm will continue as planned for the next two years 0 percent, whatever the index. This will satisfy employers in the first place. They argued several times for a wage margin of 0%, because Belgian companies lose competitiveness due to the automatic indexation of wages. They always beckoned with a report from the Central Business Council (CRB), which calculated that wage costs in Belgium are rising 5.7% more than the average for neighboring countries.
– To offer a bonus, just like in 2021, there will be a bonus or consumption check. Prime Minister De Croo himself speaks of a purchasing power premium. There are different names floating around for the bounty, but they’re essentially the same thing. Successful companies can grant an amount of up to 500 euros to their employees, provided that a branch agreement is concluded to this effect. An escape clause is also provided for companies that do not have this financial space. Companies with exceptionally high profits can grant a bonus of up to 750 euros.
– The prosperity envelope, a small billion euros for the period 2023-2024, will be paid at 100%. Normally, this money is used to increase benefits, but a small part is now reserved for workers: the lowest unemployment benefits increase by 1.3%, which is below the maximum of 3.5%. The money that will be released in this way – around 50 million euros – will be used to increase the minimum wage in order to avoid the unemployment trap as much as possible. A first, according to the Prime Minister.
Minimum pensions for employees and the self-employed will increase by 2% from July next year, the holiday pay for pensioners will increase by 3.8% in May 2023 and another 2.55% the following year, said Minister of Pensions and Social Integration Karine Lalieux. PS) know. The living wage and the replacement allowance will increase by 2% in July, as will the income guarantee for the elderly (IGO).
A dividend cut, as the socialists have put on the table, will not happen. In the end, the government also did not respond to the request for additional measures of purchasing power that would have been made to the MR.
The government’s mediation proposal is now up to the social partners. Spending on the social envelope was finally cancelled.
That’s what the SUPPORTERS say
Minister of Labor and Economy Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS) welcomes the increase in the lowest unemployment benefits, “which the liberals resisted tooth and nail”. “There is no question of rewarding inactivity. The reality is that the lowest unemployment benefits are still well below the poverty line,” it sounds combative.
Petra De Sutter, Deputy Prime Minister of the Environment speaks of an “agreement that strikes a balance between what employers and employees wanted”. All social benefits increase, so that people are protected from poverty, and at the same time those who work have more surplus at the end of the month, it seems. “We are happy that the government has been able to untie the knot in which the social partners have been stuck for a long time.”
This ABVV is ‘not very enthusiastic’ about the government’s proposed pay deal, even though there is one at the moment socialist union also positives.
“We’re not really for checks,” says general secretary Miranda Ulens on the purchasing power bonus of the government’s proposal. “This is not a structural wage increase. Moreover, it is not taken into account in the constitution of the pension. There are already people who cannot make ends meet with their retirement. The leader repeats that the unions prefer that the wage standard becomes indicative, so that unions and employers can still negotiate wage increases. From now on, there is no longer any legal margin for a salary increase.
Ulens is delighted that negotiations at the sector level are becoming possible and thinks that many sectors will get to work with the bonus. “I hear that there are employers who want to give recognition to their staff,” he says. “In addition, companies in difficulty can also be taken into account.”
That’s what the OPPOSITIONS say
N-VA MP Björn Anseeuw call the pay deal “downright disappointing and damaging”. “Unemployment benefits are increased again. And once again, the gross wage costs for the lowest wages are rising. This is completely irresponsible when you know that wage costs in this country are already rising much faster than in our neighbors and most important trading partners.
According to Anseeuw, the government should “finally show solidarity with those who work in this country”, by increasing net wages without increasing gross wage costs for employers. “It’s really crazy working in this country,” he concludes.
The merger proposal is also aimed at Flemish companies “unacceptable”. It says Hans Martintop man of the Flemish employers’ organization Voka. In the government’s proposal, the salary norm for the next two years will remain at 0% above the index, but companies that are doing well can benefit from a bonus of up to 750 euros.
If we use every penny of savings, we reduce our ability to grow.
“The government adapts its own laws in this way. The law stipulates that it must be investigated whether the competitiveness of companies is affected. And the Central Council for Business (CRB) did that and came to the conclusion that there is indeed a zero percent margin. In this way, competitiveness is at stake. We are playing with fire for a political compromise,” said the general manager of Voka.
A number of companies will be able to pay a premium of 750 euros, recognizes Maertens. “But today’s benefits are tomorrow’s investments and jobs. If we use every penny of savings, we reduce our ability to grow. Companies that are doing well today may do less well tomorrow and badly the day after tomorrow”.
“It is already an important signal that the wage standard will be set at 0%,” said the CEO Pieter Timmermans of the Belgian Business Federation (VBO). “This avoids organizing a general increase in wage costs for the economy.”
But according to the VBO, single premiums send the wrong signal. “With a competitiveness crisis raging more intensely than ever, the possibility is offered to unions to demand higher bonuses than in previous and less serious crises. It is an incomprehensible signal. Our country now needs a decisive competitiveness pact that will reduce the wage cost handicap by 16% so as not to jeopardize employment in this country,” says Timmermans.
With regard to the social envelope, according to the VBO, “properly adjustments have been made for unemployment benefits, so that working pays more than not working”.
SEE. Companies are not keen on distributing the bounty
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