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Strong through dialogue

The Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV) is the main advisory body to the Flemish government on Flemish socio-economic policy. It represents trade unions and employer associations. The SERV consists of two groups:

10 employers’ representatives

  • 5 Voka (Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
  • 2 UNIZO (Union of Self-Employed Entrepreneurs)
  • 2 Boerenbond (Agricultural Association)
  • 1 Verso (Association of Social Profit Enterprises)

10 union representatives

  • 6 ACV (Confederation of Christian Trade Unions)
  • 3 ABVV (General Federation of Belgian Labour)
  • 1 ACLVB (General Federation of Liberal Belgian Trade Unions)

This representative composition ensures that the SERV is firmly rooted in society.

Advisory role

The SERV is an independent public agency that acts as an advisory body and think tank for the Flemish government and parliament. The SERV’s primary function is to advise the Flemish government on social and economic issues. This may be either at its own initiative or upon request of the Flemish Government, a Flemish minister or the Flemish Parliament. The advices comments on government and parliamentary initiatives with a socio-economic impact.

In order to develop and carry out policies, the government requires broad social support. Therefore, in their advisory role, the SERV partners aim for consensus. They are convinced that a common view, based on a well-considered consensus, represents an advantage for our society as it clearly indicates if a new policy initiative holds or lacks broad support from the various representative members. The SERV aims for quality, in the form of research-based high level of expertise, combined with a broad basis of agreement and public support.

The SERV’s advisory reports are available to the public. The recommendations in these reports are not binding.

VESOC

In addition to the advisory role, the SERV also supports and assists the trilateral discussions between trade unions, employer’s associations and the Flemish government within VESOC, the Flemish Economic and Social Consultative Committee. Consensus agreements closed in VESOC are binding for the Flemish government, while social partners participate in their implementation.

Strategic advisory council

Finally, the SERV also acts as a strategic advisory council (SAR) for the following policy areas:

  • General government policy
  • Economy
  • Work and social economy
  • Energy (socio-economic dimension)

Among others, the Flemish Government is obliged to ask the SERV for advice on all draft decrees (primary legislation) with social or economic relevance and on all drafts of secondary legislation of strategic importance within these policy areas. By decree, the SERV is also required to advise annually on the budget of the Flemish Community.

Secretariat

The SERV’s secretariat helps the council to prepare and carry out its numerous activities. The secretariat comprises some 35 employees, and is headed by a Secretary-General. Over the years, the secretariat has acquired extensive expertise in a variety of social and economic fields such as:

  • medium- and long-term social and economic developments
  • industrial and economic policy
  • efficient government and better regulation
  • environmental policy
  • energy
  • employment agreements
  • the relationship between education and the job market
  • professional competencies

A house of many rooms

The SERV houses many other organizations. The operation and role of some of these is more closely linked to the SERV advisory and consultative tasks than those of others.