When the corona crisis is over, the Dutch government must find a successor to the ‘NOW’ scheme.
That’s what Brainport Eindhoven and the Brabant Zeeland branch of the Dutch employers’ federation, VNO-NCW, are asking of the new cabinet. NOW is the temporary Emergency Measures for Bridging Employment. It’s designed to help employers who’ve lost turnover because of the corona crisis.
They can use their NOW allowance to keep paying their staff’s salaries. That’s for both permanent and flexible workers. It helps as many people as possible remain employed.
Crisis shows need
The current crisis demonstrates the need for such a scheme. That’s according to Anne Deelen of VNO-NCW. “The manufacturing industry is very sensitive to economic cycles,” she says.
“If there’s an economic crisis, it’ll hit the region’s high-tech industry first. A type of working hours cut needs to be introduced. That must relieve companies of their burden in difficult times. That’ll keep talent in the region in those times.”
In such an arrangement, the government will absorb some of the employers’ wage costs. Some staff, at least, can then keep their jobs. But there seems little reason for such a proposal. Companies like ASML, VDL and DAF seem to be doing rather well in the corona crisis.
Many depending on help
“That’s only a few businesses,” Anne continues. “We surveyed companies in the region. Many are dependent on the NOW scheme. Other countries have already successfully applied a form of reduced working hours. Even outside of this crisis.”
Such a scheme isn’t intended to keep ailing companies afloat for a prolonged time either. “We want to design the scheme so that a company must become profitable. It shouldn’t be the case that a poorly performing company survives for years, thanks to this scheme.”
According to Anne, employees also shouldn’t have to use their saved unemployment benefits in tough times. “That’s why I wouldn’t call it part-time unemployment. Employees shouldn’t have to pay for this.”
Successful companies mustn’t fail
“But neither do we want a situation where well-run, promising companies go under due to unforeseen economic circumstances. Then, too, the region loses valuable talent.” Deelen says such a working arrangement’s details haven’t been hashed out yet.
“We can’t work everything out precisely. That would be a cumbersome request. We’re, therefore, leaving it up to Cabinet. They can decide exactly how it’ll look. They should consider this proposal mainly as a helping hand.”
How would such a scheme affect, say, shareholders’ dividends? Would companies be willing to pay more in profit or capital gains tax if such an agreement were to be made? “We really haven’t considered all of that yet,” concludes Anne.
Translator: Melinda Walraven