Saturday, 24 February 2024
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PIERRE BACK: a life dedicated to commitment

On June 28, 2023, Pierre Back was appointed Officer of the Order of the Oak Crown for his 25 years of unwavering commitment to ALEBA. Today, he offers us a valuable insight into a life dedicated to union involvement.


What triggered your involvement in the union?

“In the early days, there was no collective agreement. The boss could do whatever he wanted with the staff. On several occasions, I objected to the methods used and the way staff were treated. At the time, the bosses were seen as gods, and you had to bow down and be very nice to them to make a career. I told myself I had to get involved to change all that.”


What lessons have you learned as a union leader?


“You have to get involved and not just be a passive member. You must participate in the management of the union and have a mandate. It's very important to recruit members so as to have decision-making clout. Delegate training is very important, as are international contacts to observe the know-how of other unions. In France, Belgium, Germany... Today, communications are faster and more efficient. That would have helped me back then!”


"You have to get involved, not just be a passive member".


What skills or experience have you acquired outside the union field that have helped you in your role?

“To do your job as a trade unionist, you have to be on the move, and not confine yourself to reading and other purely theoretical principles. You must talk to everyone and get involved in institutions (health insurance, pension funds, etc.). In the Grand Duchy, everyone knows everyone, so it's important to have good relations, especially with the Minister of Labor.”


"Thousands of workers, big speeches, that's when you see union strength."


What are the most memorable or rewarding moments you've experienced?

“The big demonstrations, with thousands of people! We were demonstrating about major decisions and all kinds of demands. In my career, there were also periods of long strikes, which were costly. Thousands of workers, big speeches - that's where union strength comes into its own. We went on strike when negotiations failed. Other demonstrations also concerned welfare, although they were less important at the time, but all the same. It's a subject that's still with us today. The layout of offices and other technical installations such as the first screens... were big problems because people worked too much in front of these screens. We obtained breaks to protect eyesight. The safety delegate played a big role in this area; he was on the building commission, he even received the construction plans, he made inspection rounds with the safety officer who represented management to make sure everything was in order.”


What were your proudest achievements?

“My aim has always been to continue helping ALEBA. Since 1977 I've been involved, married to trade unionism. I've worked all my life for ALEBA and I'm proud to see that it still exists, with idealists who are ready to continue this work.”

“In 1979 we became neutral. Before that, we were under the influence of our president. My aim has always been to remain neutral with regard to any political involvement. I used to repeat at meetings that political disgressions that had nothing to do with the union were to be avoided. We were attacked politically from all sides: right-wing, left-wing... my aim was to be above it all. Being politically neutral enabled us to remain constant, to survive beyond the turbulence and political changes.”


What's the strangest or funniest thing that's ever happened to you when negotiating with employers?

“President Eugène Storck as spokesman for the inter-union. The ABBL spokesman, Jean Krier at the time, opened the meeting by asking me the following question: "So, Mr Back, what are we going to start with?" I replied with "DEUS MEUS" (which means "with money"). Everyone was puzzled, but then we had a good laugh. As General Secretary, I remember one of my first negotiations with management, when I was replacing.”



The ALEBA Board of Directors in the 80s. In the middle: Chairman Eugène Storck. To his left: Pierre Back, General Secretary.

"Being politically neutral has allowed us to remain constant, to survive beyond political turbulence and change."


In a few words, what would your union motto be?

“” One for all and all for one"! It's an ideal motto, easy to translate into any language, it exists everywhere, and it represents the very principle of trade unionism and mutual insurance: everyone contributes, so that everyone can benefit.”


Pierre signs the Memorandum of Understanding on Security in Banking and Insurance at the Ministry of Finance.



On April 26, 2023, Sports Minister Georges Engel was presented with a copy of the new edition of this historical account of the sport in Luxembourg by Mr. Pierre Back, author of the book "Boxing in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg". During the reception, the author announced that a second book on the sport would be published in a few months' time, retracing events from the first edition to the present day.


If you could invite a celebrity to join your union, who would you choose and why?

“Brigitte Bardot. We're almost the same age! She likes helping animals and I like helping people. That's why I continue to do so through the mutual benefit society. Like her, I'll help until I die!”



In 1977, Pierre Back joined the Board of Directors. In 1979, ALEBA formalized its political neutrality. Until 1994, Pierre was General Secretary under the presidency of Eugène Storck (1979-1994). In 2023, current Chairman Roberto Mendolia will present him with the Medal of the Order of the Oak Crown for 25 years of union commitment.

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