European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Luxembourg: summary

The industrial relations culture is based on trust and discussion between the social partners. All of the research carried out points to a low level of labour conflicts in Luxembourg. Indeed, there are no statistics on the number of strike days. The culture of compromise, the fact that the right to strike can only be exercised after compulsory conciliation and the requirement for social peace for the duration of collective agreements mean that there are practically no strikes in Luxembourg.

A fundamental right but with rules

  • The right to strike and freedom of association are guaranteed by the Luxembourg Constitution.
  • In principle, the right to strike may be exercised by all employees with private sector status. However, before undertaking strike action, a conciliation procedure must be followed. There are also specific rules for civil servants.
  • By law, the right to strike can only be exercised after observing the preliminary conciliation procedures. Every dispute that arises in a company must be referred – before any stoppage or cessation of work – to a public body, the National Conciliation Service (ONC), which is responsible for ‘resolving collective disputes over working conditions’ and those ‘that have not been the subject of collective bargaining or a collective agreement’. It consists of eight advisers – four employers’ representatives and four employees’ representatives – and is chaired by an official from the Ministry of Labour.
  • Moreover, the law stipulates that there must be a ‘social truce’ for the duration of collective bargaining or collective agreements. While they are in force, the contracting parties ‘shall abstain from any act that could compromise their faithful discharge or from any strike or lock-out measure’.
  • The number of conflicts referred to the ONC has never exceeded a dozen in a year. In 2015, according to the latest activity report of the Ministry of Labour, only two disputes were referred to it. One was between the management of the chemical company Chemolux and the OGBL and LCGB trade unions and related to the renewal of the collective labour agreement; the other was between the management of the airline Luxair and the employees’ representatives and related to an evaluation and performance system for non-management staff.
  • Statistically speaking, strikes are not recorded in Luxembourg because they are extremely rare as a result of the social relations culture, social peace clauses and the compulsory conciliation procedure.

Is the right to strike in danger?

  • There is nothing to suggest that the right to strike is currently in danger; it is not being challenged by employers or the government.
  • Nevertheless, the constitutional reform proposed by the government has worried the Chamber of Employees, the body responsible for defending the interests of employees at national level. The text presented by the government seeks to incorporate in the Constitution the possibility of declaring a state of emergency ‘in the case of an international crisis’, ‘real threats to the vital interests or basic needs of all or part of the population’, or ‘imminent peril caused by serious attacks on public order’.
  • Given the vague wording used, the Chamber, in an opinion of 9 June 2016, asked if ‘a demonstration, a solidarity strike or a general strike by the trade unions […] will be sufficient cause’ for the government to declare a state of emergency. The CSL called for the revision of the Constitution to enshrine the following: ‘in no case, […] must the exercise of public freedoms or of a fundamental right – such as national or cross-border trade union action […] be […] used as a pretext for the government to declare a state of emergency’.