Union members receive better redundancy terms

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In July 2003, a trade union affiliated to the Dutch Christian Trade Union Federation (CNV) negotiated extra benefits for its own members in a redundancy agreement with the Getronics IT company. A similar deal was reached in 2002 by an affiliate of the Dutch Trade Union Federation (FNV) at Ballast Nedam, the construction firm. Both CNV and FNV expect more such agreements in future.

In July 2003, the Services Union (Dienstenbond) affiliated to the Christian Trade Union Federation (Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond, CNV) agreed a social plan to accompany 600 planned job losses at the information technology company, Getronics. The deal is particularly interesting as it contains extra benefits for the union's members. The social plan provides that workers who are to lose their jobs during the workforce reduction exercise are entitled to external outplacement assistance, to which they must make a personal financial contribution. For Dienstenbond members, this contribution stands at EUR 300, while other employees must pay EUR 1,500 - a trade union 'discount' of EUR 1,200.

Getronics is not the first Dutch company to give explicit preference to trade union members in redundancy packages. In late 2002, the Building Union (FNV Bouw) affiliated to the Dutch Trade Union Federation, (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV) reached a similar agreement with the construction company Ballast Nedam. It was agreed in a social plan affecting some 200 workers that other employees who lost their jobs would receive three months’ pay, while trade union members (of whom there were reportedly 40 or 50) would receive four months’ pay. Non-members felt that this agreement was discriminatory and challenged it in court. The court ruled against the non-members, stating that under Dutch law trade unions can agree benefits for their members with employers.

Both CNV and FNV expect that they will be concluding more agreements of this type in future. Spokespersons for the two union federations stress that their members pay high contributions, averaging around EUR 160 a year. This money goes primarily towards achieving a good collective agreement, which benefits all employees, and not just union members, who thus receive a relatively poor return on their contribution. They should be able to receive an immediate benefit from their membership, particularly in sectors in which few employees are union members and the 'free-rider effect' is large. The message from the unions to other employees is clear: become a member. CNV and FNV expect an increasing tendency for separate, better provisions for union members in redundancy plans and even in collective agreements.

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