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Cabinet targets commodity boards for a review

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE Productschappen (commodity boards) and bedrijfschappen (industrial boards) may not be unique to the Netherlands, but their organizational model definitely is. While other countries have institutions that do similar work to that of these Dutch boards, they are usually either national government agencies (as in France) or set up by business associations (as in Germany). These Dutch institutions are unique because they are modeled on cooperation between employers and employees. The elimination of Europe’s internal borders means that these Dutch boards may not introduce any measures impeding free movement between the EU-Member States. Therefore, the boards must support open competition, and that is precisely where they can play a significant role for their sector. About two million employees work for businesses assessed by one of seventeen boards, which between them employ an administrative workforce of 900. The 17 boards cover about 400,000 businesses, most of them small ones, which in 2008 shouldered about 95 percent of the collective budget of 257 million euros. Two thirds of that budget was spent on activities and projects that the boards contracted out to third parties. The results of a survey conducted this past summer seemed to have prompted Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp (a conservative liberal) to review the function and the levy system of the boards. The entrepreneurs expressed dissatisfaction because they have very little influence over the way the boards operate but must foot the bill.