The federation was established on 11 April 1898, at a conference of the Belgian Workers' Party (BWP). It hoped to increase union membership, while linking unions with the BWP and the socialist movement. It initially focused on lobbying for legislation to improve working conditions, and encouraging affiliated unions to merge. From 1903, it published the Korrespondentieblad journal.
In its early years, the SK made some headway in obtaining compensation for workplace injuries, and a state pension. In 1902, it led a general strike in support of universal suffrage, a key policy of the BWP. However, the strike failed, and more than half the SK's membership then left. From 1905, the SK became increasingly independent of the BWP, firstly by removing the party's ability to nominate half of its executive, then from 1906 by admitting unions which did not themselves affiliate with the BWP. In 1913, the union led another general strike, and this proved more successful, ultimately leading to universal suffrage in 1919. Around this time, it also secured the right for state employees to join unions, and the abolition of a law which targeted radical trade unionists with lengthy prison sentences.
From 1921, the affiliated membership of the SK declined, as the country entered a long depression. The federation managed to obtain some further improvements in working conditions in the 1920s, and persuaded more of its affiliates to merge. The 1930s saw the economic situation worsen, and some gains were lost, but a major strike in 1936, led by the SK but backed by the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium and the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, obtained major gains including paid leave, a minimum wage, and a 40-hour working week for many workers.
In 1937, the SK decided that it needed to adopt a more centralised structure, and gain more independence from the BWP. As a result, at the end of the year, it reformed itself as the General Labour Confederation of Belgium.
|Union||Flemish abbreviation||French abbreviation||Membership (1920)|
|Association of Tailors' Cutters||118|
|Belgian Typographical Federation||BTF||FTB||4,858|
|Belgian Union of Tramway and Municipal Transport Workers||CBPT||BCTBAP||9,184|
|Belgian Union of Transport Workers||UTB||BTB||27,520|
|Central Union of Public Service Workers||COD||10,981|
|Federation of the Glove Industry||807|
|General Clerks' Union||10,250|
|General Diamond Workers' Association of Belgium||ADB||7,858|
|Leather Workers' Union||7,547|
|National Food Federation||HORVAL||HORVAL||8,250|
|National Union of Civil Defence Staff||2,117|
|National Union of Rail, Post, Telegraph, Telephone, Marine and Aviation Workers||IJPTTZL||ChPTTMA||90,013|
|National Federation of Jewellery and Related Trades||740|
|Socialist Union of Education Workers||CSOP||2,026|
|Tobacco Workers' Union||9,000|
|Union of Belgian Stoneworkers||COPB||25,300|
|Union of Belgian Textile Workers||COTB||TACB||52,152|
|Union of Bookbinders||1,987|
|Union of Clothing Workers and Kindred Trades in Belgium||CKAVB||CVPS||6,357|
|Union of Cobblers||1,303|
|Union of Construction and Wood||68,340|
|Union of Factory Workers||51,283|
|Union of Glass Warehouse Workers||1,050|
|Central Union of Belgian Glassworkers||8,959|
|Union of Hatters||958|
|Union of Lithographers||1,108|
|Union of Mineworkers of Belgium||CSTMB||NCMB||112,964|
|Union of Socialist Journalists||48|
|Union of the Belgian Metal Industry||CMB||CMB||139,413|
- 1911: Jules Solau
- 1930: Jean Baeck
- 1931: Edward De Vlaemynck
- 1921: Corneel Mertens
- "SYNDIKALE KOMMISSIE VAN BELGIË / COMMISSION SYNDICALE DE BELGIQUE (1898-1937)". ODIS. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
- Vandaele, Kurt (2002). "Begeesterd door de telduivel". Brood & Rozen (1): 32.