First strike held in ICT sector

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June 2002 saw the first strike to be held in the Dutch information and communications technology (ICT) sector, when employees at Getronics held a one-day strike over a pay dispute. The current wave of restructuring and redundancies in the sector has also prompted unrest among employees in other ICT companies.

On 24 June 2002, Getronics became the first Dutch information and communications technology (ICT) company known to have been affected by a strike. A one-day strike was held by some employees in response to the software and services company's proposal of a 1.5% wage increase over 19 months, which employees saw as inadequate. In addition, Getronics wants to award higher increases to its best performing employees. Trade unions have been in negotiations over a collective agreement for the company's 6,000 employees for six months, demanding an across-the-board 3%-4% increase over 12 months, largely to cover rising inflation, plus additional flexible payment schemes for employees with above-average performance. The unions want the proposed agreement to take effect retroactively from 1 January 2002.

Although the strike received considerable attention, management took little heed. The action did not result in a new wage offer and management spoke out strongly against the strike, reportedly suggesting that it might damage employees' career prospects within the company. The strike was unusual, because the employees took the day off, stating that they would be prepared to catch up with any backlog of work at a later date. The action was thus not a strike in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, the trade unions were involved and strikers carried the banners of Allied Unions (FNV Bondgenoten) affiliated to the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV), the Services Union (CNV Dienstenbond) affiliated to the Christian National Trade Union Federation (Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond, CNV), and De Unie-Federation of Managerial and Staff Unions (Unie Middelbaar en Hoger Personeel, De Unie MHP).

The economic slowdown in the ICT sector has resulted in a wave of restructuring affecting many of the industry's key companies. For example, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Europe's largest ICT service provider, is planning to to cut its workforce of 55,000 by 2,500, following the loss of 5,400 jobs in a previous reorganisation in 2001. The company still believes that it is overstaffed, and is attempting to reduce its overheads and deploy as many of its staff as possible as consultants. The Dutch operation, with some 6,000 consultants, will remain largely unscathed. However, Planet Media Group, the internet division of the Dutch telecommunications operator KPN, is to cut a quarter of its 500 jobs. Planet Media, which supplies internet services via Planet Internet and Het Net, is to close its establishments in Arnhem and Eindhoven. According to the company's management, the loss of 172 jobs will inevitably lead to compulsory redundancies.

In summer 2002, the European headquarters of the computer security company Symantec will relocate from Leiden to Dublin, resulting in the loss of 130 jobs in the Netherlands. Although the Dutch employees will be offered relocation to Dublin, the company does not expect many of them to do so. Job-seeking assistance will be given to those employees who choose to remain in the Netherlands. CMG, an automation and consultancy firm, is to cut 118 jobs at its establishments in Groningen and Leeuwarden. Following trade union allegations that employees were being pressured not to approach unions, the company's management changed its stance and is now negotiating with unions over a redundancy plan.

Since the ICT sector ran into difficulties, De Unie MHP reports that its membership in the industry has increased by 9%. It appears that the disadvantages for employees of individual arrangements and agreements are surfacing, and they are increasingly seeking collective organisation and cooperation.

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