Each time several companies announce collective redundancies, as was the case in early 2021, the debate flares up again : trade unions and politicians alike question whether, after 20 years, the time has to come to finally review the infamous “Procédure Renault” or Renault Act?
The Act of 13 February 1998 was adopted in response to the closure of the Renault assembly plant in Vilvoorde. In February 1997, the French car maker was forced to hastily call a press conference to announce the closure of its Belgium plant under pressure from the Flemish Minister-President. This situation created two major stumbling blocks: the decision was deemed irrevocable and was not open to discussion with union representatives and the workers found out about the plant closure through the media.
To avoid similar situations in the future, a labor law was passed the following year requiring employers who are contemplating a collective redundancy to inform the workers’ representatives in advance and consult with them; in other words, employer must communicate the intention, rather than the decision to lay off workers and must first inform workers or their representatives of this intention.
Although the law establishes the framework for the procedure, with its information, consultation and negotiation phases, it also has many shortcomings, both in terms of communication and in the way it is organized.
While the “Renault Act” continues to be a solid procedure, it can, however, be improved in many ways to facilitate communication, while also leaving room for social consultation. Ultimately, what matters is that the workers who are impacted by the plan are well informed and know as soon as possible whether they will be able to stay on or must leave the company, and under which (financial) conditions.