Every two years the Belgian national social partners come together to discuss the most important measures on their respective wish lists. The talks of 2019-2020 turned out to be difficult as the social partners were first bound by a maximum wage raise of 0,8%. After collective actions of the trade unions, the government made sure that a maximum wage raise of 1,1% would be possible. All social partners could live with this percentage, except the socialist trade union. Therefore, the government has laid down the wage norm of 1,1% in a royal decree, which took this element out of collective negotiations. Next, the social partners themselves have excluded the part on the raise of the minimum wage and postponed this discussion to June 15, 2019 (after the May elections).
With the two most sensitive topics out of their way, the social partners were able to reach an agreement on other topics, including :
- The amount of voluntary overtime hours increases from 100 to 120 hours per year.
- The welfare fund that the social partners can manage (283,5 million euro in 2019 and 644 million euro in 2020) will primarily be used to combat poverty by reducing the gap between the poverty line and the minimum benefits without creating unemployment traps. The focus will be on single parents.
- As of July 1, 2019, the employer’s contribution to public transport will be increased.
- As of July 1, 2020, employees who live less than 5 km from work will also be able to claim a contribution to public transport.
- The social partners also recommend the use of the recently approved mobility budget and will discuss, in a working group, a new system for employees without a company car that promotes sustainable mobility and the simplification of what already exists.
- With regard to unemployment with company contributions (the former bridge pension system), the social partners decided to increase the age conditions in the various systems to 59 years, which eventually will be increased to 60 years. For companies in difficulty and restructuring, a timetable is set whereby the age is gradually increased from 58 years in 2019, over 59 years in 2020, to 60 years from 2021 onwards.
- The end-of-career time credit system can still be granted for a period of two years under exceptional circumstances, subject to the age condition of 55 years for the 1/5th time credit and 57 years for the half-time time-credit.