THE HAGUE - A French multinational's suggestion in the Netherlands to ask older workers to accept pay cuts as a cost-cutting measure has touched a raw nerve as the Dutch economy faces a slowdown and rising unemployment.
Unions see the idea doing away with the principle of paying older workers more for their experience as an attack on a fundamental right, while employers see it as a solution to avoid layoffs in a crisis-hit economy.
The debate has raged in the Netherlands since French IT giant Capgemini's Dutch general manager, Jeroen Versteeg, said he was looking at "calibrating" 5,000 Dutch-based employees to see if salaries matched current market value and productivity.
"Previously, this branch has always done well, with skyrocketing salaries to match," Versteeg told the Financieele Dagblad (FD) daily last month.
"But the market has changed and we have to bring ourselves in line with it."
Versteeg said the relentless economic crisis raging in Europe since 2008 has changed the situation in the sector dramatically.
Versteeg said in some cases, specialist fees in the IT market have dropped by as much as half over the last four years.
Consequently, newspaper reports said Capgemini will ask some 400 workers who the company thinks might be earning too much, to take voluntary salary cuts of up to 10 per cent.