Union anger over non-binding workplace deals
11 August 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Trade unions are outraged by plans by Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus to declare CAO workplace agreements non-binding for an entire industry, claiming it undermines the essence of collective agreements.
11 August 2004
AMSTERDAM — Trade unions are outraged by plans by Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus to declare CAO workplace agreements non-binding for an entire industry, claiming it undermines the essence of collective agreements.
The unions were reacting on Wednesday to news that De Geus intends to proceed with his recently unveiled plans. The minister has informed MPs by letter that he intends to make the new regulation law from 1 November this year.
Faced with a struggling economy, the Cabinet believes wage moderation is necessary for the economic recovery. It believes that restricting the impact of CAO agreements — which determine wages and other workplace conditions — is a good method to restrain pay rises.
If a CAO is declared non-binding for an entire industry, this means that companies in that sector do not need to implement the agreed wage rises. But they must abide by the other workplace conditions laid out in the CAO, Dutch public news service NOS reported.
If MPs back the plans to declare CAO agreements non-binding, unions have warned they will take legal action against the Dutch State. The unions claim there is no legal basis for the government's scheme.
Trade union federations FNV, CNV and MHP warned they will mount a legal challenge at the United Nations (International Labour Organisation or ILO) and the European Court of Human Rights. Planned legal action with the ILO had previously been announced.
Before launching expensive legal battles, the unions have decided to wait for the Dutch Parliament's reaction. If MPs reject De Geus' plans, they said the minister will need to strongly defend any decision to proceed with the proposal.
It appears likely however that Parliament will back the minister's plans because coalition government parties Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 are in favour of the proposal. Opposition parties led by the Labour PvdA are adamantly opposed to the government's move.
The unions will first try and convince MPs that the minister's plans should not be supported and if that fails they will then lodge legal action. The courtroom battle could then take another 12 months and a temporary solution will need to be found if the CAO plans become law in November.
Small business association MKB Nederland is opposed to the government's plan, as is employer association VNO-NCW, which said any move to scrap regulations that imposes a CAO accord on an entire industry is "undesirable". It has told De Geus that his plans should only be imposed in exceptional circumstances.
A spokesman said the association was lobbying to have the plans rejected in the Lower House of Parliament, claiming that the government is ignoring its social partners, i.e. employers and unions.
Parliament will return from its summer recess on 30 August.
[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]
Subject: Dutch news