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Netherlands – Collective agreements stifling agency work

12 February 2014

Many collective agreements unrightfully restrict job opportunities for temporary workers, according to a study published by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The limitations are in breach of the European Agency Work Directive and harmful to a healthy labour market.

The Dutch Federation of Employment Agencies (ABU) has stated that it hopes that the parties involved in establishing collective agreements will heed the call of the Labour Foundation to reconsider restrictions on the use of agency workers.

In at least a quarter of the 750 collective agreements in the Netherlands, restrictions are imposed on the use of temporary workers. Research from the Ministry of Social Affairs shows that 12% of the collective agreements impose restrictions on the number of temporary workers and/or the duration of the temporary work contract. A quarter (25%) have restrictive conditions on the circumstances under which temporary workers may be used; such as only at peak times and to cover in times of illness or injury. 

The 2008 European Agency Work Directive (AWD) requires Member States to remove unjustified restrictions to the use of agency workers. The Dutch State has left the removal of restrictions in collective agreements to the social partners. Despite calls by the Labour Foundation little has changed in recent years to lift or amend any restrictions. 

ABU believes that limiting agency work in collective agreements is not only contrary to the regulations but detrimental to participation in the labour market, in which temporary employment plays an important role. Over a third of the people who transition from unemployment to employment, do so through a recruitment agency. In some parts of the country that figure can be as high as 50%.

Jurriën Koops, Director of ABU, commented: "We are at the beginning of a new season of collective bargaining, so a good time to reconsider the restrictions and abolish them."

Should the social partners fail to amend their collective agreements to ensure compliance with the AWD, the Labour Federation has announced that it will call on Lodewijk Asscher, Minister for Social Affairs and Employment to remove the restrictions by law.   

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