Belgium to consider labour package, agreement unlikely

Belgium to consider labour package, agreement unlikely
Credit: Belga

The Belgian Parliament will be examining a bill on Friday for labour reforms, but an agreement is unlikely as parties remain divided over the status of platform workers and proposed changes affecting people who work between 20:00 and midnight.

Discussions began last autumn at the national conference on employment, in which the government agreed on a broad outline of a labour market reform.

But in the interim, additions to the bill have sparked division.

Lack of agreement on platform workers’ status

One of two most divisive issues is that of the status of platform workers, such as people who drive for Uber or work as couriers for Deliveroo.

These large multinational tech corporations classify their workers as self-employed, a status that leaves them without a number of social rights and labour protections. The EU wants these workers to be classified as traditional employees unless they prove they’re truly self-employed, rather than the other way around as it is now.

Some politicians think Belgium should get ahead of the game by introducing such legislation now, but others fear that doing so would prompt the corporations to leave, just as Deliveroo pulled out of Spain when the country moved to grant its workers more protections.

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Parties are now proposing a more specific framework and set of criteria for platform work that would determine whether a person is truly self-employed or a traditional employee, Le Soir reports.

Such a framework already exists for the traditional labour market, and the SP would like to adapt this to the platform economy, which it intends to regulate. The liberals are staunchly opposed to such a move.

Late night workers

The second tenuous issue is what to do about night work, or work that takes place between 20:00 and midnight.

The Federal Minister of Labour wants to launch a pilot experiment for companies whose activity is linked to e-commerce, allowing them to ask for permission to extend the working hours of their employees.

The pilot would last 12 or 18 months, using voluntary employees who would receive a bonus as high as 50% of their gross pay, in addition to their regular salary.

But parties are at odds over the duration during which a company could ask to test the formula: the socialists want the period to be smaller, and the liberals want to see it extended over several years.

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