In July 2010, the Luxembourg parliament voted a law designed to modify the legal provisions with regard to grants and loans for higher education. This law likewise changes certain provisions with regard to family allowances. The point is that since October 2010, families no longer receive family allowance, schooling benefit and child benefit for children who have completed their secondary studies and enrolled for higher education. The amounts of these family allowances have been included in the amount of financial assistance for higher education. Family allowances payable under Community regulations to all workers, including border workers, have simply been disguised as student grants for higher education!
The point is that the fact that financial assistance for higher education is dependent on being resident in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg means that German, Belgian, French and also Luxembourg border workers and others, as well as immigrant workers whose children have remained in their home country, are excluded from this measure. Yet all these categories of workers pay their taxes and social security contributions in Luxembourg in the same way as resident workers. Consequently, the Luxembourg trade unions which are members of the ETUC believe that this law is profoundly discriminatory and at odds with Community law.
This is why the Luxembourg Independent Trade Union Confederation (OGBL) filed a complaint in early August 2010 with the European Commission against the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg alleging that it had violated several provisions in Community law by excluding non-resident students with one or both parents working in Luxembourg from the payment of family allowances and child benefit, or financial aid from the State for higher education.
While on the one hand the Luxembourg unions welcome the desire to give students greater autonomy and entitle them to funding for their studies, they are convinced that the true motivation driving the Luxembourg government to get this reform pushed through quickly and without an in-depth debate was to make savings under its austerity programme.
Since the entry into force of this law on 1 October 2010, the households of border workers have been suffering significant reductions in income, running at as much as 3,900 to 17,400 euro per year, according to whether the household has one or more dependent children in higher education.
The IRTUC Coordination Committee has voiced its solidarity with the Luxembourg unions, denouncing a discriminatory and anti-European law. It has called upon the Luxembourg trade unions to provide it with a full file on this affair, which it will monitor closely.