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ICEM CAL Campaign Releases Country Report on the Netherlands

12 December, 2010

The ICEM Contract and Agency Labour (CAL) Campaign has released a new country report focusing on CAL use in the Netherlands. The report, which was developed with the assistance of FNV Bondgenoten, highlights the fact that 1.9 million people in the Netherlands work for temporary employment agencies, are employed by fixed-term or on-call contracts, or are bogusly referred to as self-employed.

See the full report here.

The Netherlands was deeply affected by the global economic crisis, and the economy shrunk by 4% in 2009. In 2010, the country has seen a weak recovery, with many of the jobs that are being created, for example in the chemical industry, are precarious jobs.

As is the case in many countries, CAL workers in the Netherlands receive lower wages, fewer benefits, and have less social security than permanent, directly-employed workers. In the Netherlands, companies may only hire a worker on three fixed-term contracts of up to one year each before the worker must be offered a permanent position. This regulation is often circumvented by allowing a one month period of unemployment before rehiring the worker on a further fixed-term contract.

The report details how Dutch trade unions have been active in challenging CAL, particularly the abuse common to workers hired through temporary employment agencies. This year alone, 12 new collective agreements have been negotiated by the national labour centre FNV, which include provisions that temporary workers may only be deployed in busy times and to cover for absences of other workers in case of illness, and that if they work longer than nine months in one year, they should be awarded permanency. There were also 34 new agreements signed which state that only certified employment agencies can be used.

Dutch unions have also been active in bargaining for improvements for CAL workers at the sectoral level, and this year new collective agreements were signed with the two employers’ organizations representing temp agencies in the Netherlands: the ABU (ABU (Algemene Bond Uitzendondernemingen) and the NBBU (Nederlandse Bond van Bemiddelings-en Uitzendondernemingen). The most significant improvement in both collective agreements is that the training possibilities of people working through temp agencies have been expanded. Under the ABU collective agreement, workers are entitled to the same wages as employees of the hiring company after 26 weeks of employment. In the NBBU, the agreement states that workers receive equal pay for equal work from day one.

A new foundation (the SNCU) was also established to monitor compliance with these collective agreements. The foundation - a partnership between employer and employee organisations in the temporary work sector – has the power to decertify temporary employment agencies which fail to respect the terms of the relevant labour agreement.

The report also details the heroic efforts of CAL cleaners, who joined forces this year to assert their rights. Many cleaners in the Netherlands, including those contracted to work for companies such as Shell and Akzo Nobel, went on strike and organised protests for nine weeks. Their efforts ultimately resulted in a new collective agreement that provides better wages and more educational opportunities.