The regulation on the European Company Statute was adopted by ‘Arret Royale’ on 14 May 2004. Transposition of the SE Employee Involvement Directive will take place in Belgium by means of a collective agreement between the employers’ federations and the trade unions. The negotiations will be organised by the National Labour Council, first within the framework of a technical workgroup, then at the National Labour Council’s general meeting. At present (10 June 2004), the negotiations in the technical workgroup are almost completed and the first draft of the collective agreement is ready.However, a number of fundamental points of disagreement remain.

First, the Belgian trade unions insist on trade union officials being allowed to stand as employee representatives in meetings of the Special Negotiating Body (SNB), based on positive experiences in the negotiations on European Works Councils: the trade unions made a major contribution to improving the agreements. The Belgian employers’ federations are against this, despite the fact that the directive allows it. For the trade unions, this represents what they call a “breakpoint”.

Another point of disagreement is the possibility of drawing up a list of substitutes for the Representative Body.

Agreement was reached at the final meetings of the technical workgroup on the following, among other things: the employer will cover the expenses of one expert, although more experts can be covered by mutual agreement; the SNB shall be reconstituted in the case of major changes in company structure; there shall be a written report if exceptional circumstances arise.

Another technical workgroup is planned for 24 June. This will probably be the last. Unresolved issues will then be forwarded to the main parties and representatives of the social partners (political level) in the National Labour Council who will make the relevant decisions. Political agreement between the social partners should be reached by the end of June 2004.