Code on the move

20th of September 2012
Code on the move

A year after the launch of the Code of Responsible Conduct in the Netherlands, ECJ reporter Nico Lemmens at ISS Facility Services takes a look at its progress.

As we have mentioned in previous editions of ECJ, a Code of Responsible Market Conduct was introduced in the Dutch cleaning market. In a recent interview one year after the Code was introduced, the committee’s chairman Kees Blokland looked back on its introduction and the subsequent developments. Members of the Code committee are representatives of trades unions, the Dutch association of cleaning companies, and some outsourcing organisations.

According to Blokland, employers still seem to underestimate the positive role unions play in improving the image of the cleaning sector. As a result of strikes and other union protest actions, the cleaning personnels' image is better than the employers'.

At the same time, however, Blokland observes that the unions underestimate what employers can achieve. Unions are very much focused on denouncing abuses, and rightly so. But in doing so they stereotype employers as their enemy. Blokland argues in favour of pointing out good examples and working from there. Room for improvement as far as cooperation between unions and employers is concerned.

The Code of Conduct is remarkably successful in its influence. Many outsourcing organisations have signed the Code. In some cases the Code commission interfered with cleaning tenders in which lowest price seemed to be the dominant criterion. In most cases the tender documents were withdrawn and adjusted.

During the last few months, no lowest price tenders were seen. According to Blokland this unexpected fast success can be attributed to good timing. The moment of introduction was preceded by union strikes, producing a great deal of sympathy for cleaning personnel. This created openings with HR managers and other senior managers of large organisations.

Good working conditions

The growing importance attached to corporate social responsibility was another fertile breeding ground for the Code’s success.

The Code’s main objective is to create acceptable working conditions for cleaning personnel, implying ‘realistic’ and ‘acceptable’ productivity levels. A very delicate matter because of existing anti-trust regulations, the reason why the Code commission is in permanent dialogue with the Dutch Anti Trust Authority.

Blokland is convinced that sound social policy and realistic productivity levels are not only in the interest of employees, but also lead to favourable cost benefit results. Customers seem to go for longer terms contracts and failure costs seem to decrease.

One can agree with Blokland in that the Code’s effects have been positive in an unexpectedly short period. Let’s hope they are sustainable.


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