POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - POLITICS

Gäichel Summit

Telework: trade unions are not satisfied



The increase in the number of teleworking days for Belgian border workers is welcomed but considered insufficient by trade unions. Photo: Nader Ghavami

The increase in the number of teleworking days for Belgian border workers is welcomed but considered insufficient by trade unions. Photo: Nader Ghavami

Trade unions welcome the agreement reached between the Belgian and Luxembourg governments on extending the duration of telework, but deplore a lack of ambition on the issue.

From 2022 onwards, Belgian cross-border commuters will be able to enjoy up to 34 days of teleworking without having to pay taxes in Belgium, which is ten days more than before.

“We are delighted with the agreement reached between the Belgian and Luxembourg governments,” says the OGBL. This will allow cross-border workers residing in Belgium to work more days in their country of residence without having to fear a negative tax impact, even if the new threshold remains below the social security limit of 25% of annual working time.

Last May, discussions on 48 days of telework seemed to be in the pipeline. The LCGB demanded 56 days of telework per year, or 1.25 days per week. “We welcome this agreement, and the increase of ten days is already a step forward,” says Christophe Knebeler, deputy secretary general and head of social policy at the LCGB. “But the governments could have done better while remaining within the limit of 25% of annual working time. According to our calculations, it was possible to go up to 56 days of telework. Moreover,” he adds, “this European rule of 25% is not absolute, since it is possible to go beyond it: the European text allows for a bilateral agreement between countries.”

Harmonising the agreement between the three countries

The two unions also agree on the need to harmonise this agreement with the three border countries in order not to recreate “unequal treatment between border workers”, according to Knebeler. He therefore calls for an upward harmonisation with the other border countries.

“We hope that this agreement will soon be followed by equivalent agreements with France and Germany. This is to ensure that the same rules apply to all employees working in Luxembourg, regardless of their country of residence,” says the OGBL.

As a reminder, before the pandemic, French teleworkers could work 29 days outside their usual country and German workers 19 days.

Not a good deal for everyone

But more telework is not necessarily good for everyone. Fewer days worked in the country also means less expenditure in the hotel and food sector, and thus less VAT income.

If every employee in Luxembourg teleworked one day a week, the Economic and Social Council (CES) calculates, it would represent a loss of 350 million per year for the horeca sector. Up to 2,000 jobs in the industry would be threatened, social security contributions would be lower, etc. “Teleworking never represents an advantage for the state,” explains Jean-Jacques RommesJean-Jacques Rommes.

For the CES, it was therefore absolutely necessary to “stay below the 25% mark of working time done at home”.

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