Patrick Dury is the National President of the LCGB (Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions). By membership, the LCGB is the second-largest trade union in the country, with a little over 40,000 members
AMCHAM: Please share with our readers a brief history of your union.
PATRICK DURY: On the 23rd January 1921, the LCGB was founded because of the misery, poor working conditions and wages that made it impossible for miners and steelworkers to feed and care for their families. After the First World War, the situation was far from decent living and working conditions.
At that time, trade unions were created, based on a wide variety of ideological and political theories. The LCGB based its work on Christian social doctrine, which requires that human beings and their interests are at the centre of our thinking and our commitment.
Despite the changes in the last 100 years, the central message has remained unchanged. The people-centred approach is the most important element for the LCGB in ensuring that we live in a better world today, in terms of working conditions, social security, safeguarding jobs and, of course, pay.
Particularly, the LCGB is committed to defending the employees’ interests in all sectors. Through its history and experiences, the LCGB is particularly focused on the issues and challenges facing the private sector.
What are your union values and what is your approach to achieving them?
LCGB’s union values and commitment aims to be ‘One step ahead of tomorrow.’ One step ahead of tomorrow means anticipating developments in the work environment and defending the interests of employees in all sectors. Developing effective solutions to future challenges. Constantly innovating to protect jobs and social achievements.
One step ahead of tomorrow means:
- Protecting workers in the face of digitalisation
- Strengthening purchasing power
- Reducing social injustice
- Securing employment
- Improving professional education and training
- Adjusting working time
- Being committed to health and safety at work
- Committing to a fair and innovative health system
For all these matters, the LCGB offers efficient solutions which can be consulted in detail at yourlcgb.lu.
Please assess the strengths/advantages against the deficiencies and disadvantages of the Tripartite system for solving labor relations problems. What works and what does not. What changes do you believe need to be made?
In the 70s the global economic crisis hit the Luxembourg steel industry with full force. Thousands of dismissals were imminent. In order to prevent social conflict, the ‘Tripartite’ was institutionalized. This tripartite, i.e. negotiations between the government and social partners, succeeded in thoroughly restructuring the steel industry, without dismissals or social distress.
In the following years the ‘Tripartite’ ensured social peace which is one of the most important pillars for guaranteeing the economic and social growth of Luxembourg. Without the ‘Tripartite’ many social advances, such as the level of our social security and the numerous social transfers like child benefits would not exist or were not as well developed as they are today.
Our union remains convinced that the two major crises we are currently facing – climate change and the Russian aggression of Ukraine – can only be overcome by strengthening the existing tripartite social model.
Please assess the government’s response to the Covid challenges from the perspective of your members: did they do the right things sufficiently? What mistakes did they make? What responses were insufficient and in what ways?
The health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken our way of living and working. The toll in human lives has been heavy, and the economic consequences are likely to result in a social crisis not seen since the end of the Second World War.
During the pandemic, a number of government measures and aids were decided in consultation with the social partners, of which the adjustment of the short-time work was undoubtedly one of the strongest elements. Nevertheless, communication with the trade unions was far from perfect and transparent.
Faced with the risk of a serious social crisis for workers and pensioners, linked to the economic crisis triggered by the health crisis and the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the government must continue to use social dialogue, and in particular the national tripartite, to protect our social model and safeguard the livelihood of workers and their families.
Companies point out that indexation unfairly rewards low performers while likewise removing funds the company could use to reward high performers, particularly younger workers who are highly motivated to make career progress. How do you react to this and are there any changes that could be made to the salary indexation model to address these concerns (or others?)
As a trade union, we have to stress that the index is a purely mathematical instrument that automatically adapts the loss of price inflation to wages. In this way, wages remain proportional to price inflation. It is not an instrument of social justice or a substitute for a career progress system Instruments for the promotion of employees are, for example, collective agreements, whereas social justice must be attained by fiscal measures for low- and medium-income workers and pensioners.
As for those calling for changes in the index system, they should be fully aware that the index is a balancing instrument that ensures social peace in Luxembourg. Moreover, the claim that capping the index would benefit low earners or that high performers could be better promoted if it were abolished is false. The amount would not be passed on to workers but would increase the profits of companies and shareholders, so there would be only one loser: workers.
As such, the LCGB is not in favour of adapting the existing index system and calls either for a more socially adjusted fiscal system or better collective bargaining agreements.
What changes have you observed regarding working conditions associated with the recent COVID crisis and do you approve?
The COVID crisis has undeniably driven digitalisation. In terms of working conditions, this has particularly led particularly to an increase in teleworking. The LCGB has been actively involved in the development of the legal framework to ensure any negative effects and equal treatment of workers. The same goes for the right to disconnect has been explicitly inscribed in the Labor Law in order to ensure that workers are protected against the risk of an excessively unhealthy use of the new media and communication devices and possibilities.
What is your current agenda of issues that you believe require attention to better protect workers
Our values and commitment clearly define our agenda as well as the primary issues with which workers are faced.
The English language is the dominant language in the Luxembourg International business community and we have noticed that LCGB does not publish any information or function in any way in English. Is this a target audience you are not interested in or do you plan to change it?
Concerning the languages used in our publications, the LCGB takes a very targeted approach. Each sector is dealt with individually. For example, in the banking sector and in aviation, English is used regularly for all company-specific publications. As that information is not intended for the general public, they’re not published on our website. The number of English-language publications is therefore much higher than our website indicates.
Our most publishing national publications are also available in English on our website under ‘Actualités / Publications’ as well as in printed form. The cover the social parameters, telework, “mobbing” and the services of the LCGB.
English consultations are also available at all of our INFO-CENTER offices. Furthermore, in May 2023 we launched our services app ‘YourLCGB’ in English, French, German and Portuguese. The English login can be found under yourlcgb.lu and gives you the possibility to directly contact our INFO-CENTER for all matters regarding labor or social security law.
Companies argue that COVID has hurt most companies profitability. In what ways do you agree or disagree?
The health crisis has disrupted our way of living and working. Added to this is the ensuing crisis, the end of which is nowhere in sight: the Russian aggression, which is at the root of the war in Ukraine, has led to an unprecedented rise in energy costs and inflation, posing numerous problems for energy- intensive businesses and households.
The actions of successive national tripartite allowed to massively slow down the rise of inflation and to offer state support to companies struggling to cope with high energy prices.
However, the European Central Bank’s policy of raising interest rates in order to remedy inflation risks exacerbating the energy crisis.
Thus, the restructurings we have just witnessed in the industrial sector are most likely just the precursors of a crisis, whose full consequences are far from apparent.
The recent example of Manuel Cardoso’s bankruptcy also raises fears that the construction sector could be dragged into a crisis unparalleled in decades.
If necessary, Luxembourg’s social model – in this case, the national tripartite and all job preservation measures – must come into full effect, in order to provide a framework for transformations in these sectors without redundancies.
How is digital transformation impacting their employee work force and what do you think needs to be done to ensure good outcomes?
For LCGB, digitalization and its consequences are neither a new phenomenon nor a surprise. Our economy and working world have been fundamentally defined by the technological and structural changes of recent decades. However, digitalization has been greatly accelerated by the COVID pandemic, and therefore requires targeted adaptations to labor and social law.
As the trade union and voice for employees and pensioners in Luxembourg, the LCGB demands humane digitalization as described in our values and commitments.
Are there any areas impacting employee management where you consider Luxembourg labor law to be out of touch with common practices in other EU countries? What solutions would you propose?
The working time regulations are a topic that comes to mind. The LCGB also emphasizes the development of new working time organization models, that take into account the health and well-being of employees. To this end, the LCGB calls for a revision of the existing legal framework to guarantee the organization of working time within companies through co-management.
The capacity for companies to compensate and reward their employees is directly related to their bottom line profitability, Most companies say they have not yet fully recovered from the COVID crisis. Do you agree and how will you deal with this reality during labor discussions over the coming years?
This argument has to be seen in a very differentiated way. Some sectors have benefited from the COVID crisis, others did not. The same goes for the energy prices and inflation increase or supply shortages due to the Russian aggression of Ukraine.
But one must also not lose sight of the shortage of skilled workers, which can only be counteracted by good working conditions.
The LCGB is strongly committed to the negotiation of collective agreements in order to consider the individual needs of companies and employees and thus achieve results in terms of employment security and good working conditions. LCGB always adapts its negotiation strategy to the specificities and the economic situation of the concerned sector or enterprise.
Please ask and answer any questions you would have liked to be asked which we unintentionally neglected?
The future development of Luxembourg is a major issue for the LCGB. As a founding member of the European Union, Luxembourg is strongly open to Europe and the world. As a result, many nationalities live and work in Luxembourg’s private sector.
In order to strengthen social cohesion and to give more weight back to private-sector workers, the LCGB is clearly in favor of opening the right to vote in legislative elections to non-Luxembourg residents who have been living in Luxembourg for at least 5 years (in reference to the length of stay period for the acquisition of the Luxembourgish nationality).