THE RIGHT TO STRIKE: a threatened democratic right ? 20 March 2015, Brussels

Colloquium, 20th March 2015,

European Parliament ı Conference Room JAN 2Q2, Wiertzstraat 60 ı 1047 BRUSSELS

organized by PROGRESS Lawyers Network – Antwerp



Few social issues have been so manifestly part of the news lately as the debate about the right to strike. Not only does the Belgian government want to introduce minimal services in the event of strikes, there have also been proposals with a view to safeguarding “the right to work”.

These debates are in line with the tendency to juridify the right to strike, a trend that emerged in the 1970s,  in Belgium through the intervention of civil courts in collective conflicts as well as in Europe through the case law of the Court of Justice on the free movement of services (Laval and Viking judgments).

What are the recent legal developments at the international, European and Belgian level? What is the impact of international law on Belgian case law? What are the strategies used by trade unions and legal actors? Is the application of criminal law to collective actions a new trend? What are we supposed to think about the intervention of the police and bailiffs?

These and a lot of other issues will be dealt with during the international colloquium organized by PROGRESS Lawyers Network.  As the speakers are academics, lawyers and trade union officials, the right to strike will be looked at from a broad angle. People with practical experience in this matter will also take the floor.

The colloquium will be concluded by a debate in which  representatives of the various Belgian political parties will set forth their views on this topical subject.

Special guest at this colloquium is John HENDY QC, a British barrister specialized in industrial relations. He represented the English trade unions in a number of strike cases in the 80s when the miners went on strike against Margaret Thatcher’s politics. Furthermore, John Hendy has defended important dossiers before the European Court of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization and the European Committee of Social Rights. He is also chairman of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights.


Welcoming speech by PROGRESS Lawyers network and the supporting political groups of the European Parliament

9.00 – 10.40 SESSION 1
The right to strike and the right to collective action:
Genesis and current developments
Chairpersons: Bruno LIETAERT (Labour Court of Appeal – Ghent) and
Hind RIAD (PROGRESS Lawyers Network)

  • The importance of the right to strike and the right to collective action for social and democratic progress
    Jean FANIEL, director CRISP
  • Presentation of real-life cases
  • Current international, European and Belgian developments of  the right to collective action
    Jan BUELENS and Leila LAHSSAINI, lawyers of PROGRESS Lawyers Network
  • Question time

11.00 – 12.20 SESSION 2
The right to strike and the right collective action questioned
Chairpersons: Anne DUFRESNE (UCL) and Joke CALLEWAERT
(PROGRESS Lawyers Network)

  • Disintegration of the right to strike in the United Kingdom: Lessons for Belgium and Europe
    John HENDY QC, British barrister and professor at King’s College
  • Application of criminal law to collective actions in Belgium and abroad
    Alexis DESWAEF, lawyer and chairman of  the Ligue des droits de l’Homme
  • Question time

12.20 – 13.20 SANDWICH  LUNCH

13.30 – 16.00 SESSION 3
Legal answers to the restriction of the right to strike and the right to collective action
Chairpersons: Pierre-Paul VAN GEHUCHTEN (UCL/FUSL) and
Lies MICHIELSEN (PROGRESS Lawyers Network)

  • The importance of legal strategies for employees and trade unions
  • Effect of the international right to strike on Belgian jurisdiction – point of view of a Labour Court judge
    Jean-François NEVEN, judge in social cases at the Brussels Labour Court of Appeal and visiting professor at UCL
  • Possibilities of appeal against unilateral petitions, periodic penalty payments and requisitions – a lawyer’s point of view
    Marianne PETRÉ, lawyer in la Louvière
  • Problematic intervention by the police and bailiffs – a human rights militant’s point of view
    Mathieu BEYS, author of Quels droits face à la police? and assistant at the ULB
  • Question time

16.00 – 17.00 POLITICAL DEBATE
The right to strike: restriction or protection?


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ELWofficeTHE RIGHT TO STRIKE: a threatened democratic right ? 20 March 2015, Brussels