Stormy weather for Dutch cleaning sector

27th of April 2012
Stormy weather for Dutch cleaning sector

ECJ reporter in the Netherlands Nico Lemmens on a new quality standard being introduced by cleaning companies association OSB.

As reported in the February/March edition of this journal, the Dutch association of cleaning companies OSB has introduced a new Quality Mark. The OSB Quality Mark has three pillars.
The first is a set of legal requirements regarding the internal administrative organisation of financial and personnel matters, for instance payment of payroll tax and social security premiums.

The second is the so-called OSB+ standard, requiring cleaning companies to organise their service rendering processes in a responsible way. The OSB+ standard consists of ISO 9001, supplemented with cleaning sector specific requirements, such as quality measurement on the basis of EN 13549.

Finally, there is the recently introduced Code of Responsible Market conduct. All OSB members will have to comply with the Quality Mark’s requirements by the end of this year. If not they will lose their membership. External bodies will audit all members.

The reasons for developing and introducing the Quality Mark are problematic developments in the Dutch cleaning market - sharpening of industrial relations, fierce competition on price and decreasing contract terms. OSB is therefore taking responsibility for the development of sustainable market conditions.

At the time of writing, these conditions were especially turbulent. Negotiations for a new Collective Labour Agreement were started in December 2011, and broken off by the unions involved. OSB’s final bid (a five per cent pay increase for the next two years) was turned down by the unions. Strikes and other protest campaigns followed and continued at the time when the Dutch Statistical Office CBS produced a publication showing that the cleaning sector is in stormy weather. The fourth quarter of 2011 showed a sector turnover decrease of 2.3 per cent compared to 2010’s fourth quarter. The whole year’s turnover decrease was 1.1 per cent.

According to an analysis by the Dutch cleaning journal Service Management, the number of bankruptcies in the sector showed a 22 per cent increase in 2011. For the first quarter of this year, CBS expects decreases both in turnover and in employment. Dutch cleaning companies are pessimistic about the economic climate. The cleaning sector’s volume will continue to decrease.

An important factor is the decrease in office volumes, not only due to the economic malaise but also to the introduction of flexible ways of working. Service Management expects 2012 to be a difficult year, especially for the smaller cleaning companies. The larger ones are expected to try to eliminate the overcapacity in the market by pushing the smaller ones out of the market through both increasing price competition and takeovers. No sunny skies in sight in the Dutch cleaning sector as yet.

•Read the ECJ special focus on the Dutch cleaning sector.


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