#Timefor8: Unions’ actions at national level - Belgium

Belgium’s trade union to improve employers and policy-makers’ approach to the SDGs.

In the frame of the European Trade Union Confederation’s project “Raising awareness on SDGs amid workers and trade union leaders”, Belgium’s trade unions have decided to incorporate the International Trade Union Confederation’s global campaign #timefor8 in their national work plans. This campaign underlines the role of SDG 8 in addressing the socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis and in driving the 2030 Agenda forward.

With this decision, the three unions - ACV-CSC, ACLVB-CGSLB and ABVV-FGTB - aim at promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda as a matter for Belgian unions, policymakers, and employers.

To raise broader public awareness on what the Belgian trade unions are doing concerning the 2030 Agenda, the three unions co-organised the workshop "#Timefor8: Time for PR or time for the real SDG 8!" on 28 October 2020 during the yearly Belgium SDG Forum. The discussion focussed on the contribution of the Belgian private sector to the SDGs, notably SDG 8, and social sustainability in Belgium. The workshop covered such issues as supply chains, human right due diligence, private sector financing in development, and bringing the 2030 Agenda to company councils and to the committees for health and safety on the work floors. A very positive outcome of unions’ participation in this Forum is the fact that SDG 8 has been the only Goal that got explicitly mentioned in the final assessment of the event: "SDG 8 ‘Decent work and economic growth’ was highlighted. It is about approaching social and economic crises, while emphasising the fundamental role of social protection and social dialogue."

In support of this work, the unions have developed a special brochure entitled "#Timefor8: How is the private sector contributing to social sustainability?”. The publication addresses trade unionists and Belgian enterprises on, among other topics, the reasons for unions to invest in the SDGs and what guidelines enterprises can follow to align to the 2030 Agenda their activities in Belgium and abroad. The publication also includes existing good practices among Belgian companies. This material is the first in an upcoming series of tools that will be adapted to different target groups in line with Belgium’s national context.

Today in Belgium, most companies do not involve their employees and unions in SDG-related decisions, keeping the topic at managerial level instead. To reverse this situation, the Belgian unions are working on ways to improve unions’ capacity to engage in SDG-related discussion by strengthening the position of the SDGs in unions’ work plans and streamlining them across trade unions’ internal working structures. To this aim, there will be a practitioners’ workshop in the beginning of 2021 with specific sessions on:

  • can the SDGs support our trade union agenda in the framework of social dialogue on the company floor and how? Can we use the Sustatool, an online tool linking the SDGs to sustainability actions on the company floor and how?
  • putting in evidence different possible approaches to align the business activities of our employers abroad with SDG 8 on Decent Work. For example, what are the opportunities and limits of using Human Rights Due Diligence as means to monitor and contribute to the SDGs?

Most Belgian companies and policymakers are still considering sustainable development merely as a matter of development cooperation policy. Unions, on the contrary, consider the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs to also provide an important compass to guide Belgium’s national policies at all levels: federal, regional, and local.

In this light, unions propose the following SDG-driven recommendations for Belgium:

  • The SDGs must provide for a balanced leverage: rights for employees, rules for companies, and regulatory legislation by governments.
  • The SDGs must be translated into results: indicators are converted in quantitative goals.
  • The Belgian national development plan must be planned, carried out and monitored in consultation with social partners and civil society.
  • Policymakers must take the role of the 2030 Agenda for Belgium seriously. For the past years in Belgium, this topic has been an administrative process with little political support. It is time that the 2030 Agenda for Belgium becomes a serious political process, with real commitment, steered by a well-co-ordinated national strategy.

Most of these elements were strongly confirmed by a recent evaluation of the Belgian Court of Audit.



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