Effects of Dutch Responsible Market Conduct code

7th of March 2012
Effects of Dutch Responsible Market Conduct code

ECJ's new Dutch reporter Nico Lemmens updates us on the recently introduced Code of Responsible Market Conduct.

As reported in the September 2011 issue of this journal, market parties in the Dutch cleaning sector agreed on a new Code of Responsible Market Conduct. The aim is to improve both working conditions for cleaning personnel and industrial relations in the sector.

High workloads, low quality of working conditions, questionable treatment of cleaning personnel, and sharpening of industrial relations due to decreasing cleaning budgets are background factors to the establishment of this new Code of Conduct. For a long period of time cost reduction was the single most important factor in awarding contracts, to the neglect of the quality of both work and working conditions.

In the 2010 strikes in the Dutch cleaning sector, for the first time customers instead of cleaning companies were targeted by the unions. In the end, this conflict resulted in the new Code of Conduct.

In the Code parties are summoned to act in socially responsible ways in tender and contract awarding processes, and during contract periods. Awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, thereby considering only price to the exclusion of all other factors, is declared taboo. All parties involved in tender processes are to consider not only price, but also the quality of both the execution of cleaning services and working conditions. Sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are central elements in the Code. Responsible outsourcing and responsible bidding are aspects of CSR.

The Dutch association of cleaning companies OSB is taking the Code of Conduct very seriously. Violation of the code by any of its members will not be tolerated. Repeated violation will eventually lead to termination of OSB membership.

Although the committee cannot enforce the Code’s recommendations (eg, by imposing sanctions), the effects of its introduction are remarkable.

During the OSB’s members meeting in December its chairman Hans Simons (also EFCI chairman) was quoted as saying he was surprised by the positive effects the Code is showing already. Some large customers have withdrawn their tender documents to revise them because of it. Other customers are asking the Code committee to evaluate their draft tender documents, before bringing them to the market. More cleaning companies are refusing to bid on tender documents that are not in compliance with the code’s recommendations.

As a result of these developments OSB is considering the establishment of an independent organisation which will act as an intermediary between tendering customers and cleaning companies having complaints about tender documents.

Meanwhile OSB has developed an OSB Quality Mark, of which the Code of Conduct is part. More on that Quality Mark in ECJ’s next edition.

In other news: history is repeating itself. In December 2011 negotiations started for a new Collective Labour Agreement. After two rounds the negotiations were broken off by one of the two unions involved. At the time of writing unions once more are organising strikes and other protest campaigns in the Dutch cleaning sector. We will keep you posted…

 

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