Unions, employers and ministers seal ‘social’ agreement on job reform

Unions, employers and the cabinet reached an agreement on Thursday night on a package of measures which they hope will lead to improvement in the labour market and job creation.

The deal was necessary because the cabinet does not have a majority in the senate and can now use this deal to gather more support from opposition MPs.

One of the most controversial aspects of the package is delaying reforms to unemployment benefit and redundancy law until 2016, by when, the government hopes, the economy will have begun to recover.

But the government has also agreed not to go ahead with a €4.3bn package of cuts designed to reduce the budget deficit to under the eurozone limit of 3% next year. This, the Financieele Dagblad states, could put the Netherlands on a collision course with Brussels.

The main measures:

  • A decision about further cuts to impact in 2014 will be delayed until the autumn
  • 35 special units will be set up nationwide in which unions, employers and local councils will work together to help people into work. The aim is to find 10,000 jobs by 2020.
  • A ‘new balance’ will be found between flexible contracts and permanent jobs. Employers will be stopped from using foreign subsidiaries to help workers avoid paying Dutch taxes and premiums.
  • There will be more limits on temporary contracts and a ban on zero hour contracts in the healthcare sector.
  • The redundancy rules will be changed in 2016 – so as not to make the current unemployment system worse. The measures dovetail those in the coalition accord and include a maximum payout of €75,000 or one year’s salary. This money will be used to help the person find new work.
  • Unemployment benefit will remain unchanged until 2016. From that date, it will run for two years, with a third year to be determined in individual sector pay and conditions deals.
  • The government will guarantee 25,000 jobs for people with disabilities and the private sector 100,000. This will replace the 5% quota in the coalition agreement.
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