For Roberto Mendolia, trade union freedoms are in danger in Luxembourg. By becoming multisectoral, Aleba wants to force the government to democratise the country's practices in this area. Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

For Roberto Mendolia, trade union freedoms are in danger in Luxembourg. By becoming multisectoral, Aleba wants to force the government to democratise the country's practices in this area. Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne

After 105 years of existence, Aleba wants to become a trade union for all. Don’t say “Association luxembourgeoise des employés de banque et assurance” anymore, but “Association luxembourgeoise des employés ayant besoin d’assistance.”

The idea had been in the pipeline for several months. But on Tuesday 21 March, Aleba, the number one sectoral union in the financial centre, officially took the plunge to become a multisectoral union.

“We want to become a national union... if we are not already,” explains the current president, , who has his sights set on national representativeness, which the union was deprived of in March 2021 by the then minister of labour, . The president considers this deprivation to be an attack on democracy and trade union freedom, recalling the judgment of the International Labour Organisation of 22 November last year, which condemned the current Luxembourg system of trade union representation.

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For him, the 2004 laws dealing with the current problems of representativeness were made by the government in order to have few interlocutors to deal with. This meant “closing the door to any politically neutral union like Aleba,” commented Mendolia. As a result, of the 4,189 companies the union lists, 1,086 have not communicated the results of their social elections and in the other 3,103, 57% of the delegations have refused to choose between LCGB and OGBL, “two politicised unions.”

“Under these conditions, how can a minister declare one union representative and the other not?” he asked, calling for a change in a legislation he considers “dangerous for democracy and plurality of opinion.”

It is therefore in order to influence the next government that Aleba is playing the multisectoral card.

The 57% solution

What is the solution? For Aleba, these 57% of neutral delegations are potential members.

In order to convince them to join the Aleba banner for the social elections of 12 March 2024, the union is highlighting its political neutrality “which enables it to provide positive solutions for the country” and the experience acquired in the financial sector. “This is a sector where the problems can be transposed to many other sectors of the economy.” He cited as examples teleworking, the reduction of working hours--which for the union is necessary for the well-being of employees--or the problems of cross-border workers.

In concrete terms, the idea is to operate in silos, creating new ones as new sectors join in.

At present, the way Aleba operates is that the union’s leaders are the shop stewards. “Aleba does not spend money on salaries for its leaders.” “The delegates from the new sectors that will join Aleba will, in effect, be the leaders of those branches within our union. We will give them the means of action and the necessary tools,” explained Mendolia.

The association also intends to play the youth card. This is a population that is not very unionised, because “they are not very aware of the importance of union work.” To attract them, the union has announced that membership fees will be free for those under 30.

And union coordinators are already out in the field convincing neutral delegations. Time is running out, because the lists for the elections to the Chamber of Employees must be submitted by November.

To ride this wave of change, Aleba has redesigned its website and adopted a new logo symbolising a megaphone. “It is the voice of those who do not recognise themselves in Luxembourg’s two-party trade union offer.”

This article was first published in French on and translated for Delano.