Chapter 12: Representation in Collective Bargaining on Employment Conditions in the Netherlands
Zef Even 1. INTRODUCTION Employment conditions may be established in various ways. An important manner of establishing employment conditions in the Netherlands is through a collective bargaining agreement (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst). At present, the employment terms of about 70–85 per cent of all employees in the Netherlands are governed by a collective bargaining agreement. A collective bargaining agreement is defined as an agreement concluded between one or more employers, or employers’ organisations, and one or more trade unions, setting out the terms of employment applicable to individual employment agreements. Given the importance of collective bargaining agreements, one might expect that employers’ organisations and trade unions (being the so-called social partners) would have staggering membership numbers. This is untrue with regard to trade unions. Trade union membership (density) is just above 20 per cent of all employees in the Netherlands. This means that trade unions that represent a minority of all employees are in charge of negotiating collective bargaining agreements that are binding to a majority of all employees. This raises important questions on representativity and legitimacy. Representativity in collective bargaining in the Netherlands is often understood to relate to requirements that the social partners involved in collective bargaining should fulfil with regard to the number of members they have in a specific company or sector.1 The aim of this contribution is to answer several questions relating to the above: 1. Is representativity important in the Dutch collective bargaining system, and if so, why and in which cases is it important...
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