Mobility centre at Stork aims to improve flexibility

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Stork, the Dutch engineering company, aims to create a more flexible and multiskilled workforce by establishing a new "mobility centre" - Mobile 2000. This centre will work together with temporary employment agencies.

The engineering concern Stork employs 13,000 workers across 85 independently operating subsidiaries in the Netherlands. Strong fluctuations in orders have cost the company many millions of guilders annually. While workers in some plants have no work, other plants must hire temporary workers to meet demand. According to Stork's director of personnel affairs, J Driessen, the costs incurred as a result of this mismatch amounted to NLG 60 million last year. In 1996, Stork called in roughly 2,000 temporary workers from employment agencies.

Stork plans to have 30% of its workforce employed by a new "mobility centre", Mobile 2000, in the future. These "flexible" workers will be selected from Stork employees at all levels, from those on the shopfloor to engineers, all of whom have volunteered to participate in the mobility scheme. Mobile 2000 offers all employees a permanent contract. Furthermore, major investments in training have been scheduled to make the employees more multiskilled.

The primary aim of Mobile 2000 is to provide services to Stork subsidiaries. However, if little internal demand exists, the employees can also be temporarily hired out to other firms. Mobile 2000 operates differently from other company mobility centres in that, in addition to acting as an employment agency for the company, it also operates in the external labour market. In order to organise the external outsourcing, Stork is seeking cooperation with commercial temporary employment agencies in exchange for participation in Mobile 2000. For the moment, the market leader in this area, Randstad, does not wish to make its position known. Randstad is one of the agencies that provides Stork with temporary workers.

Stork is also consulting the trade unions and the works council on the project. Benefits to workers include the investments made in training, permanent contracts and an opportunity to work in the external labour market. Mobile 2000 also aims to attract younger workers by offering special work-study packages. The investments in training will be partly refunded by the training funds from the trade association representing the metalworking industry.

Mobile 2000 expects to place 1,000 employees in the internal labour market within a period of two years. The annual cost-reducing effect of Mobile 2000 has been estimated at NLG 25 million. This estimate notwithstanding, the project still needs to be officially approved by the board, the trade unions and the central works council.

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