How to fix equality of academics employed with fixed-term contracts?

The Aberration of the Belgium Council of State with Fixed-Term Employment Relationships at Flemish Universities, divergent decisions of the Appeal Labour Court and the Council of State, constitutional and Union law challenges

Gracienne Lauwers

Prof. dr. Gracienne Lauwers, Free University of Brussels.


The case X v University of Antwerpen no. 247.434 of 21 April 2020 is perhaps the most interesting case of the Belgian Council of State on fixed-term employment relationships at universities in Belgium. This judgment and the reasoning of the Belgian Council of State provokes criticism. It is described as infringing Union law and creating a ground for dismissal of academic staff at a public university in Flanders that does not exist for private state-funded universities by denying admissibility of the plea of an academic employed with one statutory fixed-term employment after successive contractual fixed-term employments based on considerations of i.a. Belgian procedural law.

The author will address the Belgian Council of State’s reasoning on the inadmissability of the claim against the background of recent judgments on fixed-term employment relationships by the Court of Justice of the European Union and by the Appeal Labour Court of Brussels. After a short overview of the facts of the Belgian Council of State’s April 2020 judgment, she will show how far the Council of State’s approach should be characterized as contradicting Union law. Against this background, divergent trends in protection between the Council of State and the Appeal Labour Court of Brussels could imperil the equal protection and equal benefit of the protection of academic staff employed with fixed-term employment relationships in (public v private) state funded universities in Flanders, granted by Directive 1999/70/EC and the Framework agreement on fixed-term work.

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