Truckers – the Dutch model

A visit by Workers Advice Center (WAC-Maan) representatives to the Netherlands’ largest trade union, the FNV, revealed the enormous gap between an Israeli trucker’s wage and that of his Dutch counterpart. While in the Netherlands a truck driver works eight hours a day (48 hours a week) and earns some NIS 10,000 (2,000 euro) basic wage, in Israel a truck driver often has to work at least 12 hours a day (68 hours a week) for just NIS 7,000 (1,400 euro, including bonuses). This works out at NIS 48 (9.6 euro) per hour for the Dutch driver, and just NIS 24 (4.8 euro) for the Israeli driver – exactly half.

Dutch truck drivers earn twice as much as the Israeli trcuk drivers

In the Netherlands: 8 hours work per day, NIS 10,000 a month

In Israel: 12 hours work per day (or more), NIS 7,000 a month

A visit by Workers Advice Center (WAC-Maan) representatives to the Netherlands’ largest trade union, the FNV, revealed the enormous gap between an Israeli trucker’s wage and that of his Dutch counterpart. While in the Netherlands a truck driver works eight hours a day (48 hours a week) and earns some NIS 10,000 (2,000 euro) basic wage, in Israel a truck driver often has to work at least 12 hours a day (68 hours a week) for just NIS 7,000 (1,400 euro, including bonuses). This works out at NIS 48 (9.6 euro) per hour for the Dutch driver, and just NIS 24 (4.8 euro) for the Israeli driver – exactly half.

What is the reason behind this absurd difference? Some would claim that Europe is wealthier, and can afford to remunerate its drivers more generously. However, there are groups of workers in Israel whose terms are far more favorable than those of the truckers, such as the port and airport employees and workers at Israel Electric Corp. The real reason is this: Dutch truckers are unionized, Israeli truckers are not.

Below we present a summary of the differences in employment terms between Israeli and Dutch truck drivers:

Work hours

In the Netherlands, an excellent collective agreement determines a weekly workload of 48 hours. A further 12 hours are permissible (up to 60 hours per week) but they must be balanced out within three months with a reduction of hours in other weeks, so that the total hours per week remain 48. In fact, if rest hours (critical to road safety) are factored in, truckers work 55 hours per week. Overtime is remunerated. Thus, a Dutch trucker can not only support his family, but also spend time with them throughout the week.

In Israel, the law permits truck drivers to be employed up to 68 hours per week. The low basic wage compels most truckers to drive more, in an exhausting effort to earn more through bonuses.

No bonuses in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, wages are paid by the hour, at about NIS 48 (9.6 euro) per hour. There are no bonuses – wages are based only on seniority and hours of work. In addition, drivers get full social benefits. Dutch drivers are not dependent on the price of fuel or the value of the goods they haul, nor are they dependent on the good will of their employers.

In Israel, truck drivers get minimum wage, and the rest is made up of bonuses calculated according to “secret” tariffs, forcing many drivers to work beyond the 68 hours per week permitted by law.

In the Netherlands, drivers get paid a wage based on 48 hours per week even if there is no work. In Israel, the law requires employers to pay just NIS 5,000 (1,000 euro) if there is no work. In practice, many companies find ways to avoid even this minimal obligation.

Wage agreement enforcement

In the Netherlands, the union set up a national complaints center, which investigates claims against employers. The employer must provide evidence he is operating according to the collective agreement. If he fails to do so, he must pay a fine in addition to fulfilling his obligations to the driver. Drivers have work committees supported by the union.

In Israel, truckers have to submit a suit against the employer or join a union for assistance. However, few drivers are unionized, work committees are almost nonexistent, and few have the means to employ a lawyer.

The bottom line – unionize!

Haulage companies in Israel make considerable profits and have a strong strategic position in the market, thus it is absurd that Israeli truckers earn half of what their Dutch counterparts earn. The enormous difference between the salaries of the management and the wages of the drivers in Israel is due to the fact that the drivers are not unionized, and cannot demand what they should be receiving. We too, just like the Dutch, could earn a decent living in dignity, and unionization is a prerequisite to achieving this aim.

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