Sectoral collective agreement signed without support of largest unions
In the Netherlands, sector-wide collective agreements are usually concluded by all the trade unions affiliated to the three main federations. However, in December 2005 , this pattern was broken in the hotel, restaurant and catering industry, where an agreement was signed only by the union for managerial and professional staff, and not by the much larger unions affiliated to the FNV and CNV federations. A similar situation emerged in January 2006 in fashion and sports retail.
Most employees working in the Netherlands are covered by a sector-wide collective agreement. These are usually concluded between the employers’ organisations involved and the sectoral trade unions affiliated to the three largest trade union federations- the Dutch Trade Union Federation (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV), the Christian Trade Union Federation (Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond, CNV) and the Federation of Managerial and Professional Staff Unions (Vakcentrale voor Middelbaar en Hoger Personeel, MHP). At the request of the parties involved, the collective agreement is then extended by the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment to apply to the entire sector.
This pattern was broken in late 2005 in the hotel, restaurant and catering industry, when the employers’ organisation in question signed a collective agreement with only one trade union (De Unie) - affiliated to the MHP - against the wishes of the FNV and CNV unions involved. De Unie represents some 500 members within the sector, while the FNV union counts 25,000 members in the sector.
The new agreement's provisions went too far for the FNV and CNV unions, especially concerning increased flexibility of employment conditions. In December 2005, these unions launched initiatives against the collective agreement. To highlight the flexibility of the collective agreement, the signatories decided not to submit a request to extend the applicability of the collective agreement. As such, this collective agreement only applies to those companies linked to the employers’ association. Around 200,000 employees work at these companies, while the sector as a whole employs some 320,000.
In January 2006, a similar situation occurred in the fashion and sports retail trade. The Mitex employers’ association held three rounds of preliminary talks with De Unie and declared publicly that it would, if needs be, signed a collective agreement without support from FNV and CNV. Increasing flexibility of employment conditions was again the stumbling block for FNV and CNV. As in the hotel, restaurant and catering industry, FNV and CNV represent far more employees than De Unie in fashion and sports retail.
Supplementary funds - concerning education and training and early retirement, for example - are often linked to sector-wide collective agreements. Employers and employees administer these funds jointly. Employers contribute towards these funds financially. The funds may also provide a source of income for the unions, which they use to inform their members about the collective agreement, for example. Once the hotel, restaurant and catering industry collective agreement had been concluded, the social fund in question reached a decision to raise the contribution to De Unie from EUR 70,000 in 2005 to EUR 450,000 in 2006, despite opposition from the FNV and CNV unions. These unions have since raised suspicions about what could be seen as a form of 'conditional sale'. In January 2006, Minister De Geus of Social Affairs and Employment called for clarification with respect to the expenditure of the additional financial resources.
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