Civil service union supports better pay for workers on job-creation schemes

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December 1997 and January 1998 have seen industrial action in public transport and refuse collection, called by the Dutch civil service trade union, AbvaKabo, in support of wage claims by workers recruited on several job-creation schemes. Amsterdam city council will meet the demands, while the city of Leiden has also taken a positive stance.

In recent months, the civil service trade union, AbvaKabo, has called industrial action in public transport and refuse collection, intended to support wage claims by workers recruited on several job-creation schemes. In December 1997, regular tram crews in Amsterdam held a strike in a show of solidarity. In January 1998, more protests followed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

In Amsterdam's public transport sector there has been growing unrest concerning compensation for people on job-creation schemes for working irregular shifts. Previously, this had been awarded through time off. People hired through the "Melkert 1" and "Melkert 2" employment schemes, named after Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, APW Melkert, or the Banenpool, receive a maximum of 110% or 120% of the minimum wage. If the irregular shifts were to be paid for, their pay would increase above the 130% level, the maximum set by the Government for subsidising the work. If wages rose above this maximum, a reduction in funds to local government would follow. This policy was changed in the summer of 1997: now there is no reduction, but no extra subsidies either. Municipalities that meet the wage claims have to find the money within their own budgets. Soon after the strike by tram drivers, the union reached an agreement with the city council of Amsterdam (NL9712153N)

In the same month, December 1997, the city council of Leiden showed that it was willing to pay those on job-creation schemes more than the 110% offered by the national employer and negotiator, the Association of Dutch Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) in the sectoral collective agreement. Protests by workers in the sanitation service in Amsterdam (which covers refuse disposal and street sweeping) at the beginning of January 1998 were directed against this offer. The city of Leiden wants to increase wages up to 120% if employees perform well. It argues as follows: the expectation that a "Melkert job" will lead to regular employment has proven not to be the case. Only 3% of those involved succeed in finding new work, and the remaining 97% have to stay on the employment scheme. Given the average age of the employees involved - 45 to 55 years - their chances of finding a regular job are negligible, in spite of the fact that these employees are performing services that were previously - before they were done away with - performed by people with normally paid jobs.

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