Less salary or dismissal?!

The Viva! care group was awarded a large assignment following a tender process. However, the profits that would be made on the assignment were so low that it was necessary to make cutbacks. The management decided that the greatest scope for savings was in wage costs. So they asked their home care workers to accept a 25 percent wage cut.

The home care workers refused. The management then applied to the Dutch Administrative Office for Employed Persons’ Insurance Schemes (Uitvoeringsinstelling werknemersverzekeringen or UWV) for dismissal permits for 294 of them. To the surprise of the home care workers and their unions, the dismissal permits were issued. Several political parties addressed questions to the Minister of Social Affairs on the subject.

The surprise of the unions and some political parties is feigned. Of course they know that in theory the employees are still protected against dismissal by Dutch employment law. This means that in most cases the employer must obtain permission in advance from the UWV Work Company or a sub-district court in order to dismiss someone. But they should also know that these days the sub-district courts and the UWV are rarely willing or able to refuse an application for dismissal. The reason for this is that over the last 15 years the legislation has gradually been relaxed.

It is questionable whether this is a positive development. With increasing regularity employees are having to face the fact that in their company all control lies with the owners and the shareholders. The employers appear to have a free hand. But appearances are deceptive. The greying population is putting pressure on the employment market. Only employers who offer an attractive working atmosphere will be able to survive in such an employment market.