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Netherlands – Trade union hotline for on-call contract workers

03 January 2013

Many people who work with so-called ‘on-call’ contracts feel exploited , according to the Dutch Trade Union Federation (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, FNV). "They often do the same job for years, but only hear at the last minute when the next job comes. If they are sick or take holidays they get no money, while this is required by law, "said FNV.

There are two types of on-call contracts used in the Netherlands. Firstly, ‘zero-hours’ contracts which are fixed-term contracts signed by both parties as soon as work is available -  these are not employment contracts, but only framework agreements that set possible wages and other details. Secondly, ‘min/max contracts’ stipulate a minimum number of working hours agreed upon by the worker and the employer - these are employment contracts, but the terms are highly flexible.

In order to gather feedback from workers employed under these contracts, the FNV opened an online survey and obtained nearly 250 responses in the first few weeks. Respondents were employed by all sectors of the economy: security, libraries, banks, but also media, museums, taxis, home care, nutrition and transport. As many as 80% of respondents were hired to do the same work as a colleague with a permanent contract, and only a quarter of these earn an equivalent salary. Furthermore, three quarters would prefer a permanent contract.

Most respondents are unsure about the number of hours they will be requested to work in a month and how much they will earn. According to the FNV, the findings show that many people are desperate and feel they are being exploited. They claim the psychological pressure is very high, especially for those with a family with small children. Only one in five work fixed hours, for almost half of respondents the hours change on a weekly basis.

Catelene Passchier, Vice Chairman of the FNV, reacted to these findings: 'We hear that permanent jobs are being converted to flex contracts. We know of people who may work only during rush hour, for example, during the meal rounds in care; and these people have to go to work twice a day for a few hours only”.  She continues: “We know of store personnel sent home on quiet mornings; drivers called in the evening for the next day. Employers and politicians should ask themselves whether this is acceptable. We call these forms of employment crumb contracts. On crumbs you cannot eat."

Data from the Dutch Office of Statistics (CBS) shows that, in 2012, there were 346,000 people regularly hired using on-call contracts. In addition, as many as 860,000 contracts concerned jobs lasting less than 12 hours.

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