Employers: promised wage increases must be reversed in bad times

This is written by the employers’ associations AWVN, MKB-Nederland and VNO-NCW. The proposal is part of a broader package of agreements that employers want to make with employees.

They want to use the collective labor agreement consultation in 2022 to discuss this.


One aspect of the employers’ proposals is that in extreme situations, such as last year with corona, it should be possible to cancel wage increases, even if they have been agreed in a collective labor agreement.

Employers will not abuse the opportunity to reverse the collective labor agreement wage increases, expects Raymond Puts, director of AWVN in the broadcast of RTL Z. That is precisely because agreements have been made in advance about circumstances that you cannot foresee, he thinks. .

Better conditions when things go well

The other side of the coin is that it can also work the other way, according to the employers. As a result, employees should receive more in good times.

“Recently, wage increases of around 2.5 percent have been agreed, which is a neat development. But in companies where things are going really well, it would be very nice if those who work there also benefit, with a higher wage and a part profit,” Puts said.

He is not afraid of a pinball effect, where wage cuts and windfalls for the workers alternate quickly. It should really be clear that things don’t go well for a company if wage increases don’t go through, says Puts.

Shortage in the labor market

In the current time of shortage on the labor market, employers want measures to counteract this. They want to make work more attractive for current and new staff. It’s not just about more pay, though.

The employers want to improve the work-life balance, among other things, by focusing more on hybrid work and childcare, and by offering more opportunities for learning and development.

Now nine out of ten employers are struggling with staff shortages and expect them to continue or increase in 2022, the employers said.

FNV not enthusiastic

The FNV union reacts incensed to the ideas. “Too often we see that employers take advantage of a crisis or a dip in business operations by wanting to structurally intervene in the employment conditions,” said FNV vice-chairman Zakaria Boufangacha in an explanation to ANP news agency.

“That people have to hand in their honestly earned wage increase when the company is doing less well is downright antisocial, symbolic of politics and indicative of the hardened attitude of employers at the collective labor agreement.”

FNV believes that wages should rise in sectors where there is a shortage. “The groceries and housing costs are not getting cheaper,” said the union.

Mentally hard blow

Leontine Treur, senior economist at RaboResearch Netherlands, also has doubts. “It’s not the best option. Employees get very grumpy when they are promised a pay rise and have to hand it in. I would rather look for the solution in not paying flexible arrangements, such as a generous profit scheme.”

According to Treur, this is less mentally difficult than a structural wage increase that an employee had counted on.

If wages are cut, employers and employees must agree in advance ‘under what circumstances the joker will be used’, Treur believes. “What is a crisis? Are we in it now? Is it structural. That is difficult.”

‘Corona not over yet’

Employers think the corona pandemic is not over yet. “Despite the positive economic outlook, the future is uncertain with the new restrictive measures and global chain disruptions,” AWVN said in a statement.

According to the employers’ organisations, the differences are large between economic sectors. “In companies and sectors with a favorable economic context, there is more room for higher wages.”

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