BRUSSELS – L&E Global is pleased to announce the successful conclusion of legal proceedings carried out by L&E Global Belgium member Van Olmen & Wynant, on behalf of The Belgian National Rail Company (NMBS).
Through a ruling of the Council of State, Belgium’s highest legal administrative court, NMBS will be able to continue to discipline staff who participate in wild cat strikes after the Council of State ruled in its favor.
An employee took part in unofficial action and was suspended by his employer for a month – resulting in this legal case. The court ruled against the worker who was in charge of signalmen.
In its ruling, the court pointed to the exemplary role that the chief signalman should have and the impact of his actions. The wild cat strike lasted only half an hour but affected 261 train services.
The social protocol, signed between the Belgian Rail Company and the Trade Unions, stipulates that any strike action should be announced at the latest ten (10) days beforehand.
This should allow the NMBS to alert their customers in due time.
Participation to a wild cat strike will, for each individual participating worker, be considered as an unjustified absence from work. In turn, this may lead to disciplinary action undertaken against the individual worker.
The rail company has welcomed the ruling noting that a clear distinction has been drawn. In the event of stoppages and unofficial action, disciplinary action can be taken against employees. The independent rail union says it is surprised by the court’s ruling. It adds that its job is to ensure wild cat strikes are resolved as quickly as possible.
Chris Van Olmen, Founding Partner at Van Olmen & Wynant, said about the wild strike and its resolution:
We are very pleased to have obtained this result, as this was an issue of principle. According to the Council of State, the obligation to announce a strike 10 days in advance seeks to minimize the effects of a strike for the public and thus guaranteesthe right of mobility to travelers. Therefore, the right to strike is not an unqualified right. This ruling can be an important example for future wild cat strikes in Belgium.