With a premium of up to 500 euros, companies can reward their employees for their work during the Corona crisis. This action led to conflicts between trade unions and employers. Even strikes broke out in the chemical sector.
Agfa-Gevaert staff did a few newspaper printers and hospital scanners on Tuesday. The factory in Mortsel was largely flat due to the strike. Also in other chemical companies Employees gave up work because trade unions and the chemical confederation Essenscia could not agree on wages and working conditions for the next two years.
“There was almost an agreement,” says Quinn Lenins, Essenscia’s general secretary. But when we were wrapping up the negotiations, the unions threw the Corona bonus on the table out of nowhere. They have no intention of reaching an agreement already.
The government and the media made it clear that you immediately receive 500 euros via the corona bonus, while this is not the case.
The unions contradict this. “It is true that we put the premium on the table just a few days ago,” says Jan Muwens, federal secretary of the BBTK trade union. “But we suggested the bonus as an alternative to the dozens of other points that Essencia rejected.”
It is not only in the chemical sector that unions want employees to be rewarded for their work during the past corona period. Unions demanded the same for workers working in difficult conditions, such as supermarket workers, food factory workers and cleaners.
The unions found this very little and that’s why the government came up with the corona bonus (see class). Employers and unions must mutually decide which companies pay the corona premium and how high it should be.
What is Corona Premium?
Since August, companies that have done well during the Corona crisis can give their employees a Corona bonus of up to 500 euros. This is tax efficient. Employers only pay a special Social Security contribution at 16.5 percent. For employees, the premium is exempt from withholding tax and no Social Security contribution is due.
Corona Premium is paid in the form of coupons to consumers, which you receive digitally or on paper. The federal government created those checks last year to give companies hard-hit by Corona a boost.
Since August 1, you can spend checks not only in the manufacture of restaurants and small shops, but in almost all stores. Think supermarkets, health centers, cinemas, cultural centers, hairdressers, beauty salons, bowling alleys, swimming pools, and fitness centers. Merchants are not obligated to accept checks. You can also only spend checks at a physical store, not a web store. Checks are valid until December 31, 2022.
Negotiations are not going smoothly. Struggles in the chemical sector prove it, but elsewhere as well, labor unions and employers are finding it difficult to come to an agreement. This is the case, for example, in the service voucher segment. If there is a group that deserves the Corona bonus, it is the cleaning helpers. They continue to work during Corona, often in unsafe conditions,” says Chris Vanaugerden of ACV. “However, there is no agreement in this sector yet.”
The fact that many service voucher companies make little profit or even loss plays a major role. “Even the best-performing companies find it difficult to free up the budget,” says Vanautgaerden. “The government did not realize that the sector needed additional funds to reward the cleaners.”
Another difficulty is that each sector includes companies that have survived or grown during the crisis, as well as companies that have been hit hard. “This is why it is best to determine whether the company is paying the Corona premium at the company level,” says Lenins of Essencia. Other trade associations feel the same way.
But unions want sectoral agreements, because they fear small business employees will be left out. It seems that there are no unions that can impose a premium. Unions say they want industry-wide agreements to spare companies difficulty.
paper and cardboard
Despite the struggles, progress is imminent in a number of sectors, such as the paper and cardboard producers sector, the metal industry and the food sector. Trade unions and employers have an agreement. Only their supporters have not yet spoken.
Employees of profitable Belgian paper and cardboard producers receive a corona bonus of at least €200. For food companies that do not incur a loss, it concerns at least 150 euros. At the company level, employers and unions can increase premiums up to a maximum of 500 euros.
Vivia, the union of food companies, doesn’t want to respond yet, but unions do. Bart Vantelbusch (ACV) says the talks have been tough. “Workers had high expectations as they continued to work in a key sector throughout the crisis and received only limited wage increases.”
criticize the government
The government left a lot of room for trade unions and employers. The measure was intended for companies that have done well during Corona. But what is good? Is the increase in sales during Corona the norm? profit increase? Or is it enough for the company to make a profit?
Trade unions are complaining about the way the government launched the Corona bonus. “It’s a poisoned gift,” Vanaugerden says. In government communications and in the media, it was as if anyone who received a reward would immediately receive 500 euros. Some employees who expect a raise will never get it. But in the meantime, the staff asks us where their €500 is. This makes negotiations more complicated.
I just decided now One company in 150 To pay the Corona bonus to its employees. As more sectors complete wage negotiations in the coming months, it will become clear whether that number will become significant.
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