Via conferences and press releases, professional organisations have been making their voices heard in the run-up to the elections on 8 October. Labour, competitiveness, taxes… each sector has its own wish list, even if the issues sometimes overlap. Here is a (non-exhaustive) summary of their demands.
Employment, social security, taxation, team skills: under these four themes, the Luxembourg Employers’ Association (Union des entreprises luxembourgeoises, UEL) is making 14 demands of the next government.
And if they had to pick just one? Says UEL director Jean-Paul Olinger: “Allow employers more leeway in setting their work-from-home policies,” a change that would be achieved by removing tax and social security obstacles for cross-border workers. Discussions would then take place between employer and employee.
The director also notes that a single measure, not included in the list of 14, could provide an answer to many of the problems raised: “Build 100,000 homes by 2040.” Some of these would be rented at affordable prices by the state, to “combat poverty.” The ratio of residents to cross-border commuters “could find a different balance, which would have a positive impact on social security and pensions, as more people would stay in the country. We would be less dependent on our neighbours for strategic professions, such as hospital staff.”
Chamber of commerce
The chamber of commerce has presented 30 proposals in six thematic booklets. Among their wishes are improvements to labour market attractiveness and talent development as well as renewed focus on the ecological and energy transition, innovation and public finances/pensions.
For Carlo Thelen, managing director, the key message is: “Stimulate a pro-business framework for companies.” He adds: “This has been lacking for several years. Luxembourg is losing its attractiveness and competitiveness. There have been measures but they’re always isolated. What we need is a global framework, so that companies feel that there’s an action plan that will benefit their future activity. Entrepreneurs are too often forgotten.”
The chamber of commerce also asked businesses about their priorities ahead of the elections.
The Luxembourg confederation has published 21 wishes, including upgrading the status of self-employed workers, overhauling indexation, changing shop opening hours and more.
“Among these measures, the one that seems most important to us is making working hours more flexible,” comments director Tom Baumert. “It’s crucial to modernise current legislation, to give companies the flexibility they need to customise working hours. This revision would take account of the specific needs of both employees and the sectors of activity concerned. Such a modernisation would allow employees to better balance their professional and personal responsibilities, while improving the productivity and efficiency of businesses.”
Chamber of skilled trades and crafts
Skills and apprenticeships, attractiveness of the craft industry, a modern and fair state, ecological and digital transition, organisation of work, regional planning: the chamber of skilled trades and crafts has listed 30 proposals, which fall under seven headings and break down into 159 sub-proposals.
The most urgent of these? “The introduction of an ambitious and effective housing policy,” says Tom Wirion, the chamber’s director. “In particular, affordable housing. Attracting talent is a key factor in ensuring the competitiveness of the Luxembourg economy in general and the craft industry in particular, and in sustaining our generous social system.” He considers the current showing in this area to be “very meagre,” adding: “the next government is expected to address this issue.”
Federation of craftspeople
These are also issues of interest to the Federation of craftspeople (Fédération des artisans, or FDA), which lists 81 measures that range from the status of the self-employed to the digitisation of SMEs.
“The next government will be faced with a series of challenges, the most important of which will be to act in favour of the competitiveness of the Luxembourg economy, which is the prerequisite for any social, climate or environmental policy,” comments deputy secretary general Christian Reuter. He adds: “We believe that work should be organised at the company level, in agreement with the employees.”
“Don’t discourage new projects,” “Don’t ignore labour needs,” “Don’t over-regulate the ecological transition to which industry is committed,” “Don’t hinder the dynamic of technological progress.” These are among the key messages from business federation Fedil to the candidates in the general election. These ideas are set out in 53 specific proposals.
And to chose just one? “The next government will have to help accelerate the development of renewable energy production and net zero energy infrastructure in the country,” explains Michèle Detaille, managing director, “and enter into strategic international partnerships to access the production and distribution potential of affordable decarbonised energy, all in a spirit of technological progress and neutrality.”
She adds: “This objective not only responds to an imperative need in the industrial and technological sectors--achieving it will significantly improve the chances of achieving the energy transition without social disruption.”
The Horesca federation has not published a list as such. “We are basing ourselves on the demands of the chamber of commerce and the UEL,” explains CEO François Koepp. He cites three points in particular: a balanced state budget; guaranteeing the country’s attractiveness and competitiveness in order to attract businesses; and having territorial development that is up to scratch.
Others are specific to the hotel, restaurant and café sector, such as lowering VAT (“if not to 3% then to 8%”) for local beer and wine, which stands at 14% currently, or clarifying the law so that companies are not obliged to pay their employees for the three-hour break between two services.
If he had to choose just one, it would be reducing the administrative burden on businesses and re-establishing a healthy economic situation in Europe.
The Confederation of care and assistance organisations (Confédération des organismes prestataires d’aides et de soins or Copas) has listed six key demands.
“There is no doubt that the labour shortage is emerging as the most pressing issue,” says the organisation. “We need to step up the campaign to raise awareness of the healthcare professions, make the sector more attractive by creating training courses at different levels, facilitate access to them and create gateways to encourage progression in the care field.”
The Federation of hospitals (FHL) has added 26 proposals, aimed at making hospital medicine and care more attractive, digitalising the sector and making the healthcare system more transparent.
The Association of architects (Ordre des architectes et des ingénieurs-conseils or OAI) has put forward 12 proposals. The watchword, as director Pierre Hurt says, is “moving from quantity to quality.”
Enhancing the status of self-employed workers and harmonising tax measures for pensions are among the eight measures proposed by the Federation of independent intellectual workers (FTI).
The main idea, according to FTI coordinator Pierre Hurt, is to “think about the liberal professions, which are too often forgotten, even though they contribute to the common good.” In particular, the FTI is calling for a policy whereby representatives of liberal professions are consulted on draft legislation.
The Association of insurance and reinsurance companies (ACA) has compiled nine demands for the next government, ranging from the reform of professional secrecy to the promotion of the financial centre. It had not yet identified any “flagship” measure at the time of publication of this article.
The Luxembourg bankers’ association (ABBL) has identified six key areas for action, ranging from training and continuing education to financial literacy. These are broken down into 27 proposals.
“Unsurprisingly, it is the issue of attracting and retaining talent that concerns us most,” says the ABBL. A number of measures are proposed in this area, including public-private partnerships to create affordable housing for young talent, making the profit-sharing scheme more attractive and creating a status for teleworkers.
For startups, the Luxembourg startups association (LSA) has presented five measures in its “manifesto.”
“The most important are the first (encourage private investment in startups) and the third (introduce a share ownership scheme),” says the LSA.
The Centrale Paysanne labour union--to which the Chamber of agriculture refers us--has summed up their needs in 12 proposals.
Of these, the most important to the labour union is the establishment of an independent ministry of agriculture and food sovereignty, to function independently of the environment ministry “and which can exchange ideas with it on an equal footing.”
The consumer protection group ULC has also expressed its pre-election wishes.
This article was originally published in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.