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Netherlands  Netherlands

Key Facts

Population16,730,348
Collective Bargaining Coverage 81%
Proportion of Employees in Unions 20%
Principal Level of Collective Bargaining

industry (also some company)

Workplace Representation

works council

Board-level Representation

yes: state-owned and private companies

Company Board Structure

dualistic or monistic (choice)

Sources: see individual country sections; where a range of figures has been quoted, the lower number has been taken

Trade Unions

A fifth of employees (18%) are union members in the Netherlands, and the proportion has been gradually falling in recent years. There are two main confederations, the FNV – the larger of the two – and the CNV, initially divided on ideological/confessional lines, although now with good relations. The other main union grouping has recently split and with the FNV also undertaking a radical restructuring, unions are facing significant organisational changes. note2

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Collective Bargaining

The vast majority of employees in the Netherlands are covered by collective bargaining, mostly at industry level. However, many large companies negotiate their own deals. Negotiators generally follow the recommendations agreed at national level and recent pay increases have been moderate.

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Workplace Representation

Employee representation at the workplace is essentially through works councils elected by all employees. They should be set up in all workplaces with at least 50 employees and more than three-quarters of workplaces of this size have them. (There are other arrangements for smaller workplaces.) Works councils are not directly union bodies, although union members often play a key role.

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Board-level Representation

Works councils have the right to nominate up to one third of the members of supervisory boards in larger companies – above 100 employees among other things. However, neither employees of the companies nor trade unionists dealing with them can be nominated, so the works council nominees are often distant from employees’ day-to-day concerns.

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European-level Representation

It is the works councils who choose employee representatives from the Netherlands on bodies related to European Works Councils and European Companies, with clear a hierarchy running from the central works council to individual works councils.

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Health and Safety Representation

In the Netherlands, the works council is the key body representing employees’ interests in the area of health and safety, which it deals with alongside its many other responsibilities. It can delegate its powers to a health and safety committee but a majority of the members of this committee must also be works council members.

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Financial Participation

Workers’ financial participation schemes in the Netherlands are based primarily on national ‘save-as-you-earn’ schemes offering attractive tax incentives for both employers and employees when employee shares are purchased. However, the majority of employees prefer low-risk savings into a special account, even if taxation is not as favourable.

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