Your employment contract defines the agreements that you and your employer have entered into that cover, in addition to the collective agreement, areas such as employment, form of employment, salary, overtime and all benefits. If you do not have a collective agreement, your employment contract must contain everything that is part of the collective agreement to allow you to work on a level playing field. In Scandinavia, there is no law stipulating that agreements at a lower level must be more favourable. In Denmark, for example, there is no objection to a temporary reduction of a given standard. Footnote 15 It is also not a question of law in the Netherlands and it is possible to obtain exceptions to an expanded agreement with mandatory provisions. However, in neither country have trade unions granted a specific opening clause related to the current recession, probably because the current sectoral agreements are already flexible enough. The same may be true for Switzerland. In both countries, examples date back to the past. In the Netherlands, the 1982 central agreement resulted in the adoption of a binding “opening clause” for all agreements that expired after December 1982, allowing the suspension of the price index in 1983 (Visser and Hemerijck 1997).
In 1993, the Machine Tool Agreement introduced a temporary “crisis clause” in Switzerland that allows companies that have experienced difficult periods to eliminate the “thirteenth month of wages” and increase working time without increasing wages (Bonoli and Mach 2000:158). The application of opening clauses in Belgium seems exceptional in the context of the current recession (Keune 2011) and the law does not provide for exceptions, but in practice it is possible to deviate from sectoral standards if the agreement expressly allows it through opt-out clauses. Three of the six main trade union confederations signed a central agreement in France in 2013, which was later adopted as a law, introducing the possibility of deviating from sectoral standards for companies in economic difficulty, subject to the obligation not to lay off workers. In the 1970s and 1980s, a high level of employer organisation and strong trade unions, particularly in the manufacturing sector, combined with model negotiations, allowed Germany to monitor the high degree of coordination of wage negotiations found in Scandinavia during these years.