Bargaining round opens

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The Netherlands' first major collective agreement of 2000 was reached at Akzo Nobel in February. Elsewhere, agreement on new settlements for the education sector and provincial government appears unlikely in the near future.

In the first major collective agreement of 2000, trade unions and the Akzo Nobel chemicals group agreed in February on an overall pay increase of 4.25%. All the company's 18,000 employees will receive an increase of 3.5% in 2000, with the remaining 0.75% taking effect as of 1 January 2001. The implementation of performance-based pay, as sought by management, has been shelved for the time being. From the start of negotiations, the trade unions involved - Allied Unions (FNV Bondgenoten) and CNV Bedrijvenbond- clearly stated their intention to reject performance-based pay at present. However, a joint task force has been set up to study "new forms of payment". Agreement was also reached on adapting the company's existing occupational pension system. The current final salary system, which entitles employees of retirement age to 70% of their last-earned salary, will be replaced by a system based on the employees' average salary during their employment. The new system will entitle employees to 80% of the average salary earned.

Negotiations on a new agreement for the education sector began on 23 February 2000. Covering 255,000 employees, this is one of the larger bargaining units within the state sector. The trade unions are calling for a significant pay increase comprising 4% extra pay, a 1% year-end bonus and an additional 1.5% to increase the attractiveness of working in the education sector. Personnel shortages plague the sector, which anticipates a need for 17,000 extra teachers in 2002. The Minister of Education, the employer involved, instead proposes a different system of payment. Avoiding the term "performance-based pay", the Minister refers instead to "competency pay". He also advocates expanding career opportunities for teachers.

The first industrial action connected with the 2000 collective bargaining round took place on 24 February, when civil servants in the province of Friesland went on a 24-hour strike. Other provinces plan to follow. The trade unions reject the provincial government employers' offer of a 5.75% pay increase over 20 months.

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