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Sectoral negotiations 2021-2022

12 October 2021 Leen Smeets Employers

Every two years, the sectors negotiate new sectoral agreements. They are doing so after the national social agreement  (IPA) is approved. Some sectors already have an agreement for 2021-2022, others are still negotiating. 

What if the industry has not yet reached an agreement? What are the consequences? When does a sector agreement come into effect? We provide answers to key questions about the 2021-2022 sectoral negotiations.

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What is a sector agreement?

A sector agreement determines employment and wage conditions of employees for the next two years. The social partners of a joint (sub)committee (employees' and employers' representatives) then get around the table to negotiate. When these negotiations lead to an agreement, we speak of a sectoral agreement. The current sectoral negotiations cover the period from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022.

What agreements can be reached in a sector agreement?

Terms of employment

The employment conditions of employees are discussed during a sectoral negotiation. This could include, for example:

  • the possibilities of time credit
  • the possibility of SWT (the former early retirement pension)
  • greater flexibility

Of course, it only concerns the working conditions of workers in that particular sector for which negotiations are under way.

Wage conditions

In a sector agreement, the social partners agree on whether a conventional wage increase will be granted to employees, and in what form. For example, a salary increase of a certain percentage or the granting of equivalent benefits such as extra meal vouchers or eco vouchers, a higher travel allowance, pension insurance, etc.

How does a sector agreement come about?

The workers' side (the unions) first presents a set of demands containing all the workers' requests. Employers and employees then consult to reach a draft agreement and/or a protocol agreement. All provisions of this protocol or draft agreement will only come into force after they have been formalised in one or more officially published collective agreements.

Are there limits to a sectoral agreement?

Sectors are not free to choose the terms and conditions of employment of a sector's employees. They must also take into account the legislation and agreements concluded at national level.

For example, if the social partners decide to increase workers' pay, they can only do so within the limits of the wage standard set at national level do so. In concrete terms, therefore, they cannot foresee an increase of more than 0.4% in the current wage elements for the period 2021-2022. For example, national regulations must also be taken into account for time credit and SWT.

Can wages increase twice in the same month?

You should not confuse wage indexation and conventional wage increases.

The purpose of a wage indexation is to increase wages in line with the cost of living. The indexation mechanism to be applied differs per sector. At some point, you will have to raise some - or even all - of your company's wages. In principle, the sector agreement does not change that mechanism, unless they explicitly agree otherwise.

However, the sectoral negotiations may lead to an additional conventional wage increase. And that system is completely separate from wage indexation.

It is therefore indeed possible that salaries are increased twice in the same month, because of the indexation and because of a conventional salary increase decided upon in a sectoral agreement.

What about the corona premium?

The corona premium is an additional premium that can be granted, as an increase in purchasing power, if your company achieved good results during the corona crisis. The corona premium is a maximum of 500 euros, and must be granted in the form of consumption vouchers. You can grant it until 31 December 2021. 

No sectoral agreement yet? Then we recommend that you wait for your sector negotiations. In many sectors, the granting of these consumption vouchers is now on the negotiating table. 

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Leen Smeets

Written by Leen Smeets

Leen Smeets is juridisch adviseur bij het Kenniscentrum van Acerta. Zij is onder meer gespecialiseerd in arbeidsduur, flexibiliteit en arbeidsreglementering.

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