In their letter, the unions recognises that the postal market has undergone fundamental changes as a result of the major fall in volumes and increasing competition, and that against that background TNT Post is compelled to make major savings, including in labour costs.
TNT Post has held negotiations with the unions since early 2007 regarding the necessity of cost-cutting measures and the extent of those measures. After external studies by the independent Boston Consulting Group, SEO and ECORYS, the need for those measures and their extent were in fact endorsed by the unions.
TNT Post CEO Harry Koorstra: “TNT Post considers that the future of the postal company in the Netherlands will be compromised if the proposed reorganisation plans, these being the most recent plans offered to the unions during the latest negotiations, are not in fact pursued. The management of TNT Post considers that risk to be unacceptable.”
Since the start of the talks, TNT Post has negotiated openly and constructively as to how the cost savings should be implemented, if possible by means of natural attrition and by encouraging voluntary redundancies. TNT Post has indicated that it would be a “balancing act” between the necessary efficiency measures on the one hand – involving the loss of 11,000 jobs – and changes in employees’ terms and conditions of employment on the other, so as to prevent compulsory redundancies.
TNT Post has made every effort to minimise the consequences from the social point of view. To that end, a balanced proposal was originally made in August 2007 based on efficiency measures combined with structural changes in the terms and conditions of employment.
In their letter, the unions say that the joint “Alternatives” working party, which included independent experts, came to the conclusion, in 2008 already, that there were few if any serious alternatives to the proposals put forward by TNT Post.
At the end of 2008, the parties were ultimately able to agree on a package of cost-cutting measures involving, on the one hand, efficiency measures and, on the other, structural changes in employees’ terms and conditions of employment. The outcome of the consultations was also an employment guarantee for six years, with the first three years being without any provisions. Prior to that, agreement had also been achieved in principle regarding the Collective Mobility Agreement to deal with the social consequences. The unions presented this to their members as a choice between “income rather than work” and “work rather than income”. Their members chose “income rather than work”.
The rejection of this agreement by the union membership in March 2009 was a major disappointment for all concerned. In the meantime, the fall in the volume of mail has accelerated and the postal market has been entirely liberalised. A study carried out by ECORYS in 2009 at the behest of the unions again confirmed the necessity of the proposed cost-cutting measures.
Given the choice made by the unions’ membership, TNT Post concluded a collective labour agreement early in 2010 providing for improvements in the terms and conditions of employment. The improvements in the terms and conditions of employment were unavoidably linked to more rapid implementation of efficiency measures involving a significant number of compulsory redundancies. Right from the beginning, TNT Post has been entirely open about the numbers concerned. Here too, there has been open and constructive consultation with the unions with a view to minimising the number of compulsory redundancies, given the choice made by the unions’ membership and the necessary cost-cutting measures.
In order to deal with the consequences of the necessary reorganisations, agreement was reached on a social plan with good conditions for TNT Mobility to guide employees “from work to work” and a good financial safety net at the end of their employment. In the course of these discussions too, TNT Post again sought ways of softening the impact on its employees. It has been agreed that employees born before 1952 who are surplus to requirements will be kept on.
TNT Post considers that, in the final weeks of the talks, major undertakings have been given to restrict the number of compulsory redundancies to 3100, including in the light of the continuing decline in volume, which will come to 8 to 9 percent in 2010. The interests of employees have played a major role in this.
The package of demands expressed in the unions’ letter of 28 October makes it impossible to implement the necessary competitive cost-price reductions. TNT Post considers that it has investigated all the various possibilities – exhaustively and at length – and it calls upon the unions to shoulder their responsibility as regards ensuring a healthy future for the company.
We give the matter of disquiet among the company’s employees – which is in part due to the continuing uncertainty – the highest priority. It is absolutely normal within TNT Post for employees and management to deal respectfully with one another. Where that is not the case, TNT Post will take action: intimidation is something that the company cannot possibly accept. TNT Post, the unions, and the Works Council are working together to deal with this problem. ArboNed (TNT Post’s health and safety service) has commenced an investigation, for example, of the psychosocial work pressure, and this investigation is being coordinated with the Labour Inspectorate. An independent ombudsman will also be appointed.
If the unions do in fact engage in collective action, it will have an impact on the rapidly increasing fall in volumes due to substitution and the leakage of flows of mail to TNT Post’s competitors. Such action will in fact increase the risk as regards jobs, precisely the jobs that the unions wish to preserve.
TNT Post has given far-reaching undertakings to minimise the consequences from the social point of view. Unfortunately, the unions have merely indicated that all of TNT’s gestures, concessions, and undertakings are insufficient. It is not possible to comply with the unions’ demands without the unions showing themselves open to discuss other cost savings, for example as regards the terms and conditions of employment.
Needless to say, TNT Post remains open for talks.
In case of any discrepancy between this press release and the original Dutch version, the Dutch version will prevail.