Dan Kersch, pictured, said he was forced to comply with legislation that did not leave him the possibility to make a choice in the matter Anthony Dehez/archives

Dan Kersch, pictured, said he was forced to comply with legislation that did not leave him the possibility to make a choice in the matter Anthony Dehez/archives

Laurent Mertz , general secretary of the Luxembourg Association of Bank and Insurance Employees, described the decision as a sad day for trade union freedom in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

“Representativeness, we have it de facto, every day, thanks to our actions in companies and within the Chamber of Employees”, he insists. Aleba has always refused to join other national trade unions to preserve its independence, an independence it considers “indispensable to any good union work. They couldn't get us this way, they tried the strong way and through constraint.” The final nail: “The OGBL wants a single trade union. But we will always refuse the single thought.”

ALEBA challenges

What will be the concrete consequences for the union? Laurent Mertz does not see any from an organic point of view. “We will remain active in the companies where we are represented.” But he acknowledges that the measure being unprecedented, one cannot predict how OGBL and LCGB will try to take advantage of the situation. While waiting to see, “ALEBA is already taking steps at the national and international levels to have its legitimate representativeness recognised and restored.”

No question for Laurent Mertz “that, on the basis of a discriminatory law, the only national trade unions--which have only 26% of the votes in companies--can claim to represent all employees in the financial sector or to exclude the first trade union from the financial center.”

Complicated renegotiation of banking and insurance agreements

And of course there is the issue of the renegotiation of the collective agreements of the banks and insurance companies, where union divisions have been exposed. For Laurent Mertz, this affair will not be able to exclude ALEBA from the negotiating table. And the loss of sectoral representativeness will not prevent the union from signing an agreement on its own, according to him, something that the OGBL and LCGB feared. This is an agreement that might be more difficult to reach, firstly because OGBL and LCGB have more aggressive approaches, giving priority to linear wage demands that are politically more selling, but detached from the reality on the ground. Above all, Yves Maas, the current CEO of the ABBL, has never taken care of the interpersonal contact with the two national unions.

The controversy over representativeness

ALEBA has been sectorally representative since 2005. This status allowed it to sign agreements on its own. The 2019 social elections resulted in the loss of the majority of seats in ALEBA. Of the eight seats in the Financial Services and Intermediation College within the Chamber of Employees, it still held four, compared to three for the OGBL and one for the LCGB. With 49.22% of the votes, it was far ahead of its pursuers, who held 26% of the votes. The sectorial representativeness is linked to a ministerial order of recognition. For ALEBA, it dated from 2005 and had never been challenged since. After the social elections, the union approached Dan Kersch to see if this status was maintained. Yes, the minister replied.

Water has been flowing under the bridge ever since. The OGBL, following its “non-victory” of 2019, which made a lot of noise internally, reorganised its services to create a “finance” branch. And, above all, negotiations for the renegotiation of the banks’ collective agreement have begun in a scattered order for the unions: OGBL and LCGB reproached ALEBA for going it alone.

When contacted, the minister said that he was only applying the law. “From the moment someone made a claim on the issue of the representativeness of ALEBA, I had to apply the law and comply with its criteria. This I did, after requesting a detailed opinion from the Labour and Mines Inspectorate (ITM) […] I had no choice,” he concludes.

This article was originally published on Paperjam.lu in French. It has been translated and edited for Delano.