Unions sceptical about CovidCheck in companies

Nora Back did not appreciate the lack of dialogue on CovidCheck in companies. Photo: Matic Zorman/Archives Maison Moderne

Nora Back did not appreciate the lack of dialogue on CovidCheck in companies. Photo: Matic Zorman/Archives Maison Moderne

Prime minister Xavier Bettel's (DP) latest announcement allowing the use of digital certificate CovidCheck to become compulsory in companies, has left the OGBL and the LCGB with mixed feelings.

The OGBL trade union did not like the unilateral decisions of the government, which chose to allow the country's employers to impose CovidCheck on employees. "We were surprised by the announcements as we have not been involved in any discussions on this subject, apart from a tripartite meeting several weeks ago. The government has just presented us with a “done deal”, while behind this decision, many questions remain unanswered. This adds to the uncertainty and many details that remain to be clarified. For the time being, it is difficult to imagine the implementation of what the prime minister has announced", said Nora Back, president of the OGBL trade union.

However, she does not question the vaccination. “Make no mistake, we are in favour of a return to normality, and from the outset we have encouraged vaccination as much as possible. But we have to make sure that we do it without increasing the divisions that already exist in society. Such a decision risks accentuating the split between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated, or even alienating the most sceptical people,” said Back.

The LCGB is also unconvinced by the method used by the government. “It is always a pity to use pressure tactics instead of arguments,” said Christian Knebeler, deputy secretary general of the LCGB. He was not surprised by the government's announcement, but was nevertheless cautious.

Co-management and flexibility

“We have always argued against a compulsory CovidCheck in companies and for co-management. Unfortunately, I did not hear any mention of co-management during the prime minister and the minister of health's speech,” Knebeler lamented.

The trade unionist is still waiting to see the text of the law which should be presented to the deputies on 18 October. “For the moment, we can only react to the subject and we will have to analyse the future text of the law,” said Knebeler. Nevertheless, he tried to remain positive by noting that the government is not closing the door to “a certain flexibility in certain cases.” Just like the 1 November date which “still leaves time for the non-vaccinated to make certain arrangements.”

For Nora Back, the notion of co-management remains crucial. “The prime minister himself says that this is a matter of health and safety at work, and he is quite right. The law and the labour code stipulate that all these decisions must be discussed within the framework of social dialogue, in co-management between companies and trade unions,” said the OGBL's president.

What happens if an employee does not have CovidCheck? Do they stay at home? Will they still be paid, or will they be dismissed?
 Nora Back

 Nora BackPresidentOGBL

“We agree that it is impossible to apply the same method in all companies. But we need the main lines, and therefore a law. In companies, the ideal scenario is to put a situation into practice in consultation with staff delegations. But we are not sure that the law will indicate this, as we do not yet have the legal texts on the subject,” stressed Back. Michel Reckinger, president of the Union of Luxembourg Companies (UEL), recently indicated that he was in favour of consultations between employers and the staff delegation. “At this stage, many things remain to be clarified. Will the CovidCheck be verified during the employee's working hours? At what time of the day and where in the company?” says Back.

Finally, the OGBL president is concerned about the cost of testing for unvaccinated employees. “The bill for the employee, especially for those with lower salaries, could be extremely high. Let's do a quick calculation with tests in pharmacies, between  €20 and  €50 depending on the type of test. That's between €100 and €250 per week. What happens if an employee is not in compliance with CovidCheck? Do they stay at home? Will they still be paid or will they be fired? What about people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons? Who will pay for the tests? For the moment, we don't have any answers,” stressed Back.

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