FNV: whose interests are actually being represented?

More and more I notice that FNV-members get the feeling that not their interests,...

Member loss trade unions

‘The trade unions are losing members’. This could be read in several media at the end of October 2015. FNV says that it does not know the reason for this decline and that it will do more research on the matter. I can make an educated guess though.

More and more I notice that FNV-members get the feeling that not their interests, but those of FNV prevail. A typical example for this is the matter of the freedom in choosing an attorney.

Free choice of legal representation

A lot has already been said and written on the subject of free attorney costs and legal assistance insurance. A short outline of the situation.

The law and jurisprudence

The constitution states that people have the right of free choice of legal representation.
Legal assistance insurance companies have always interpreted this in the way that their paralegals handle the cases and that they are obliged to refer their policy holders to an attorney of choice when this is strictly required (monopoly in litigation or opposite interests).
The Supreme Council has ended this practice on the 31st of February 2014 (ECLI:NL:HR:2014:396). In this case law the Supreme Council, after advice of the European Court, established that – when it concerns a legal or administrative procedure – everybody has the right of free choice of legal representation, so also all people insured for legal assistance.

Less coverage

Almost all insurance companies have moderated their policy conditions by lowering the maximum of costs drastically, which makes normal legal representation impossible in practice. They have also started to push the boundaries of the verdict. For instance, at this moment there is an ongoing procedure on whether a procedure by the UWV (the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency) counts as a legal or administrative procedure and thus the freedom of legal representation should apply. In other words: insurance companies are still doing everything possible to pay as little as possible. Policy holders become the victims of practice.

Cost saving

That legal assistance insurance companies have to be careful with their costs and that they are mainly concerned with their own profit models and less with the interests of their policy holders, cannot be a surprise. Insurance companies in general have the reputation to be reluctant in paying and legal assistance insurance companies are no exception to this.

Recently a new player has come to the market, a player you would not expect right away. It concerns a provider of legal assistance, which is well known for representing the interests of individuals - employees- to its best effort.

Trade unions appear to be complicit

I am referring to trade unions and particularly to the FNV. Employees which are a member of FNV are entitled to legal assistance when they have a conflict with their employers. Paralegals, in service of the FNV, assist the employees in these cases. Surprisingly enough, FNV refuses to comply with laws and jurisprudence and refuses to outsource these cases to attorneys.

Court of Appeal: FNV is wrong

Its excuse: ‘we do not have policy holders but members, so the law does not apply to us’. Obviously a far-fetched excuse to save costs, but that also harms the interests of its members. The Court of Appeal in The Hague has already proven the FNV wrong. In this case the court stated that the freedom of attorney does apply to legal assistance through membership of the FNV. The court explicitly referred to the free choice of attorney and decided that the General Terms that apply in other cases do not change this.

FNV ignores the ruling of the Court of Appeal

So it is clear that the FNV knows that its position is in conflict with the law, but chooses to ignore this as long as there is no ruling by the supreme court on this specific subject. Until then every penny saved is a bonus, according to the FNV. This results in grave harm for its members.

How the supreme court will rule in this case is quite evident if you ask me, but there will not be 100% certainty until after a verdict, and this could take a while. As long as the FNV maintains this attitude towards its members, purely for self-benefit, it should not be surprised if members will unsubscribe.

Conclusion

Does this relate to you and does your insurance company or the FNV refuse to pay for an attorney, contact me, Suzanne van Dijsseldonk LLM. I can act as an intermediate between you and your insurance company or trade union. If this does not result in the desired outcome, then it is important to take the right steps to safeguard your rights in the best way possible.