Why there is so much uncertainty about salaries in health care

We got a lot of reactions to our message yesterday about salaries in health care. The reason for the message was the parliamentary debate on the level of salaries in the light of the corona crisis.

The confusion arose partly because we had made mistakes ourselves (see also our recovery section). But there were also a lot of e-mails and reactions on social media from care workers who did not recognize themselves in the figures and had questions about it.

Most questions are about the care salaries in this graph. These were contained in a letter to the House from Ministers De Jonge and Van Ark and State Secretary Blokhuis dated 18 August.

For the sake of clarity: the amounts are gross amounts, which include holiday pay and end-of-year bonus, but not an irregularity allowance.

Many of the questions we got were about the difference between these amounts and the amounts on pay slips and in collective agreements. The salaries in the Kamerbrief are based on data from pension insurer Zorg en Welzijn. “The pension fund looks at the income,” says Joost Veldt, collective bargaining partner of the CNV trade union. “They get that from the employers via pay slips.”

The amount of 2620 euro is according to Zorg en Welzijn the average income of 20-24 year old nurses in a hospital. The amount of 4120 euros is the average income of 55-59 year old nurses

“That’s on the high side if you compare it to the collective labour agreement”, says Veldt. “You should have looked at the cao scales. The starting amount from the cao is much lower. Most of the nurses I know are on a scale ranging from 2251 euros to 3225 euros gross.”

Under the minimum

That may explain the lack of clarity among some of the nurses who responded. What also does not help is the complicated system of the different function groups in the care.

“It’s also very difficult”, says Mariette van Dijk of union FNV. “There are a lot of different function groups. They are all different collective agreements.” Salaries differ between ordinary hospitals and academic hospitals. And certainly between hospitals and nursing homes.

Joost Veldt of trade union CNV tries to understand how that is possible. “It depends on what responsibilities she has. Because with fewer responsibilities she may step into a lower scale” His tip is to read the job description carefully. And check with colleagues doing the same job whether they are on the same scale. If not, steps are possible, according to Veldt. “If people feel that they are under scaled, then there is a procedure in all those collective agreements how they can deal with that.”

It remains the case that the messages about salaries in health care loosen up a lot. Staff at Erasmus MC Hospital also had a lot of questions about amounts on their pay slips, a spokesperson says. “In most cases this is because people work part-time, and therefore earn less. And not everyone is immediately on the maximum salary. In addition, annual salaries include holiday pay and a thirteenth month. That makes a big difference.”

The thirteenth month and the holiday allowance are included in the gross monthly salaries in the Ministry’s table. But that does not apply to the irregularity surcharge. And this can amount to as much as hundreds of euros per month, certainly in the case of Intensive Care, for example.