During much of the year, consultations with the employee participation bodies were dominated by the COVID-19 measures. The consultations continued in an adapted format. The Central Works Council and the four Works Councils (OR Reizigers, OR Instandhouding, OR C&O en Groep and OR Stations) and their administrators designed an online consultative structure. The employee participation bodies were closely involved in the design and implementation of crisis response measures during the first months of the crisis. Next to that, regular consultative sessions were held and a variety of requests for advice and approval were dealt with.
As NS's existing CLA expired on 31 March 2020, early 2020 saw the start of talks with the trade unions about a new agreement. The talks were suspended in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Central Works Council and the unions were then involved in discussions on potential agreements regarding employment, the CLA, pension arrangements and the NS social plan. These consultations did not however result in collective agreements. In the autumn of 2020, negotiations with the unions on the CLA, pension arrangements and the NS social plan were resumed. NS and the unions reached agreement on the new CLA in February 2021.
NS has embarked on a programme to reduce the size and increase the agility of its organisation. In this context, we submitted an overall request for advice to the Central Works Council in October, asking them for an opinion on a cost-savings programme totalling €1.4 billion for the period up to and including 2024. With this programme, NS hopes to at least break even again in 2024, bearing in mind the downward adjustment of passenger forecasts. Over time, the cost-savings programme will significantly reduce the number of jobs within NS.
A new CLA
NS and the unions (FNV, VVMC, VHS and CNV) signed a new CLA in February 2021. The new agreement recognises the enormous effort put in by all our people as well as the severe financial situation that our business is in. Among other things, the new CLA provides for a pay rise totalling 4%, an employment guarantee until 1 January 2025 and a better early retirement scheme. The new CLA has retroactive effect from 1 April 2020 and will terminate on 1 July 2022.
Pay rise and term of the CLA
The CLA is effective until 1 July 2022. As of 1 April 2020, wages will be raised retroactively by 1.2%. This is followed by further pay rises as of 1 April 2021 (1.6%) and 1 January 2022 (1.2%). This works out at an average annual pay rise of 1.8%, which is 0.4%, on average, above the expected rate of inflation of 1.4%. The total pay rise throughout the term of the CLA is 4%. In addition, employees who were on the payroll as at 1 January 2021 are entitled to a one-off net payment of €200 in April 2021 (in proportion to their working hours).
The early retirement scheme will be improved, allowing colleagues to opt for early retirement within three years before their statutory retirement age. Those who decide to retire one to three years early are entitled to a one-off gross payment of €22,164 each. Employees who decide to retire less than one year early will receive a part of that amount.
NS makes every possible effort to help employees find a new job within NS. This includes an employment guarantee until 1 January 2025 for all employees on a permanent contract.