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Unions reject Bergen op Zoom package said to be “among the best”

| May 29, 2014

Trade unions have threatened to organize protests at Philip Morris’ cigarette factory at Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, if the tobacco company does not offer a better social plan for employees who seem set to lose their jobs.

Philip Morris Holland (PMH) said in early April that it intended to end cigarette production at Bergen op Zoom by October with the loss of about 1,230 jobs.

In a note posted on Philip Morris International’s website, PMH’s board was said to have started consultations with employee representatives. “Depending on the outcome of the consultation process, and pending approval of the PMH Supervisory Board, the proposal could affect approximately 1,230 out of the current 1,371 employees at PMH,” the note said.

The deadline given by the unions for receipt of a better offer expired on Tuesday, according to an ANP story.

They are said to be looking for higher compensation for “the enormous pension damage” that will be incurred by those involved.

Commenting on Tuesday to the-then imminent expiry of the trade unions’ ultimatum to PMH, the company said it unfortunately had to state that the trade unions’ demands, as put forward in their ultimatum, were unacceptable and demonstrably impossible to comply with.

“PMH has worked intensely over the past weeks to propose a social plan that is among the best—if not, the best—collective redundancy compensation programs ever offered to employees in the Netherlands under comparable circumstances,” the company said in its Tuesday statement. “The plan is based on the old cantonal formula (more favorable to employees) with a correction factor of 1.4, that is some 40 percent higher than the average correction factor agreed in other social plans using the old formula. It also includes a number of clauses that are designed to support the potentially affected employees in their effort to transition to new employment; these clauses also are far superior to established best practices in the country. The unions’ intransigent demand that PMH apply a correction factor of 1.9, as well as other vexatious conditions, is unprecedented, not substantiated by any well-founded arguments, and sets a target that is demonstrably unreasonable and impossible to comply with.

“PMH is also convinced that the ultimatum received is premature, as the company has already significantly increased its starting proposal and is willing to continue to discuss, based on objective and established benchmarks and best practices—benchmarks that the unions have so far categorically refused to present.

“Taking all this into account, PMH can only conclude that the trade unions’ position is to escalate unnecessarily and prematurely the ongoing negotiation into a conflictive one, which will waste precious time and resources that would be otherwise put to the service of the potentially affected employees.

“PMH fully respects its employees’ right to conduct industrial actions. However, industrial actions as such will not lead to an improved proposal, rather to more delays and insecurity for its employees. The company’s efforts remain directed towards a constructive dialogue, which still is the most effective and rapid way to achieve a social plan that is fair and viable for all parties involved.”

Category: Breaking News

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