• There are new rules in the making in business sector committee 337;
• The new rules will entitle local staff members to install a union delegation (subject to certain conditions), which means that a number of employees will be elected or appointed to represent the union-affiliated local staff;
• These employees have certain rights and access to the staff; they can spend time on these activities during working time and the mission will need to make the necessary time and space available;
• These employees have a far-reaching protection from dismissal;
• These new rules are in the pipeline but are not final yet.
At present, negotiations are ongoing in business sector committee 337 concerning a collective bargaining agreement to introduce a union delegation. A union delegation consists of a number of employees elected or appointed to represent the union-affiliated local staff members. These employees have certain rights and access to the other local staff. The employer must give the members of the union delegation sufficient (working) time and foresee facilities for them to exercise their union activities. The members of the union delegation will be allowed to make oral or written announcements of professional or union nature to all other local staff members. Further modalities of their functioning must be defined in the collective bargaining agreement within the business sector committee. In each event, the members of the union delegation enjoy a very strong protection against dismissal.
Setting up a union delegation of employees is foreseen in collective bargaining agreement n. 5, concluded on the national level. The specific conditions for setting up of a union delegation and the modalities of its functioning must be defined in a collective bargaining agreement to be concluded on sectoral level, i.e. within a business sector committee.
According to our information, the negotiations on such a collective bargaining agreement within the business sector committee are in an advanced stage and the introduction of a union delegation is to be expected in the months to come.
Within the business sector committee, the local staff members of diplomatic missions are represented through their trade union representatives – as is the case within the Commission de Bons Offices – whereas the employers, the embassies and other diplomatic missions, are not represented – as is also the case within the Commission de Bons Offices. Obviously this is a situation which is not tenable in the long run but, to date, the Belgian Protocol service is not showing any signs of intervening in this area.
The compatibility of a union delegation (and all practical consequence thereof) with international (customary) law and the Vienna Convention, is – as far as we know – not being considered or investigated by the business sector committee or by the Protocol service.
To be continued …