Negotiations for Labor Reform Break Down in Netherlands

Employers and trade unions fail to reach an agreement, forcing the next government to impose reforms.

The port of Rotterdam in the early morning, March 14, 2014
The port of Rotterdam in the early morning, March 14, 2014 (Haaijk)

Labor negotiations between employers’ organizations and trade unions have broken down in the Netherlands.

Both sides blame the other, but employers had the bigger incentive to let the talks collapse.

Without a deal, it will be up to the next government to impose reforms and the four parties negotiating to form a government are center-right. They are expected to enact more employer- than worker-friendly changes.

The talks broke down on three issues:

  1. Employers want to make it easier to fire workers. Current law requires them to cite one, and only one, reason for terminating a contract and they must then give employees a chance to improve their performance, for example, by assigning them to a different part of the company. Small businesses say this is often impossible for them. Unions disagree.
  2. Employers currently pay workers with a long-term illness salary for up to two years. They want to reduce this to one year. Unions argue this would make it harder for workers to regain employment once they are cured.
  3. Unions want freelancers to fall under the same regime as temporary workers, who cannot be paid less than full-time employees. Both employers and organizations representing the self-employed resist this.