We congratulate the Belgian youth representatives for winning fair wages for young workers.

In Belgium, youth representatives from ACV-CSC METEA (metal and textile workers) report how they fought a long battle with other Belgian unions to get rid of wages below minimum wage level, for young workers under the age of 21.

The Belgian government imposed these unfair wages in 2016 under the pretext that this measure would create 1000 jobs for young workers and help get young workers out of unemployment in the aftermath of the crisis. However, not only did this austerity measure fail to create the promised jobs, it also had a disproportionately negative effect on the working and living conditions of 45.000 young people. Their wages decreased by up to 18% and their access to social protection was also limited. In addition, this measure marked the first 15 years of the working life of these young workers. Despite pressure from trade unions, the sub-minimum wage was passed again in 2019. 

However, the youth representatives persisted in their fight against this unfair measure and used one of their best available tools: collective bargaining. They managed to put the sub-minimum wages on the negotiation table during the sectoral collective bargaining rounds and concluded 10 sectoral agreements that ensure fair wages for young workers.

Belgium is just one example of young workers joining unions and winning better working conditions for trainees, apprentices and young workers. Our infosheet shows more, including examples from Germany and the Netherlands. 

Young trade unionists are also deeply engaged in ‘Together at Work’ as they are implementing our campaign across Europe, most notably in Belgium, Italy, Poland, and the UK.

Luc Triangle, industriAll Europe’s General Secretary, said: “Young people are not only the future, they are also the present. We see all over Europe how their struggles bring positive results, as in the case of the youth representatives in Belgium. We congratulate them for winning fair wages for young workers! For industriAll Europe, youth work is a priority, and we support our young members in their fight for making their voices heard.”

About the campaign

The objective of industriAll Europe’s collective bargaining campaign is to demonstrate the positive impact of collective bargaining, underpinned by strong unions, in delivering a better life for workers. It consists of 7 targeted campaigns, each lasting one month. The ‘Young Workers’ Campaign’ runs from 13 January – 7 February.

The campaign can also be followed on facebook (@industriAllEU), twitter (@industriAll_EU) and instagram (industriall_europe).

Visit togetheratwork.eu for more information.
See the campaign coverage here. Watch the campaign video.
Contact Patricia Velicu for more information or further comment.