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   The Commission has to go a stage further in the infringement  proceedings
   against Belgium for allowing discrimination against women workers in  the
   case  of dismissal and has issued a reasoned opinion.  This is the  final
   stage before bringing an action before the Court of Justice.
   After  examining  of  the  legislation  and  agreements  concerning   the
   dismissal  of  elderly workers in Belgium, and after  contacts  with  the
   Belgian  authorities,  the  Commission of the  European  Communities  has
   reached  the  conclusion that the Belgian  system  discriminates  against
   The  infringement procedure against Belgium is directed in particular  at
   the  possibility for employers to give women who have reached  retirement
   age (60 years) a shorter period of notice than male colleagues, who still
   receive  the  normal  period of notice up to the  age  of  65 years.  The
   period of notice, which can be up to two years in the case of workers who
   have the maximum number of years of service, is reduced to six months  in
   the  case  of workers of retirement age.  In other words, the  effect  of
   these  provisions is to allow an employer to dismiss a woman between  the
   ages of 60 and 64 years after a much shorter period of notice than  would
   apply  in  the case of men of the same age who have worked for  the  same
   number of years in the firm.
   Similarly,  in  the  case of dismissal  allowances,  the  Belgian  scheme
   provides  for  payment  by the employer of  an  additional  allowance  to
   elderly  workers  when they are  dismissed.  This  additional  allowance,
   however,  is  granted only to workers who are  entitled  to  unemployment
   benefit,  in other words women up to the age of 60 years, and men  up  to
   the age of 65 years, the normal age for a pension entitlement.  Reference
   to    entitlement   to   unemployment   benefit   introduces    disguised
   discrimination  by restricting the supplementary award to  men.  This  is
   totally  in  breach of the principle of equality for men and  women,  the
   observance of which is guaranteed by Community law.
   This  basic principle is enshrined in the Treaty of Rome (Article 119  on
   equal pay) and in a 1976 Directive which puts the principle into practice
   at different stages of working life:  access to employment, conditions of
   employment,  dismissal,  training  and  occupational   advancement.  This
   Directive, which should have been fully incorporated into Belgian law  by
   August 1978,    requires   that   any   legislation,   regulations    and
   administrative  provisions contrary to the principle of  equal  treatment
   should  be  dominated  and  declares null  and  void  any  provisions  in
   collective agreements or employment contracts contravening it.
   The  Commission  has  therefore  decided  to  continue  the  infringement
   procedure  in order to bring that the Belgian authorities to amend  these
provisions on dismissal, which are incompatible with Community law.

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