On 8 March 2023, the Hague District Court released a preliminary relief judgment in the case of Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging and CNV Connectief against the State of the Netherlands, represented by three ministers. The case concerns a collective action by trade unions representing healthcare workers who were infected with the coronavirus while providing care to COVID-19 patients in 2020 and are now suffering from long-term symptoms known as long-COVID.

The State has taken measures to combat the coronavirus, including guidelines for personal protective equipment and visits in care institutions. Trade unions have urged the State to provide concrete assistance to those affected, and the Minister for Long-Term Care and Sport announced an intention to provide a compensation of €15,000 per person for a certain group of care workers with long-COVID. The Advisory Division of the Council of State recognised that there may be grounds for a provision, and the government announced its willingness to make a capped financial contribution to a collective scheme in addition to the substantial contribution from employers in 2023. However, employers’ organisations have indicated that they do not want to and cannot cooperate on a collective scheme, and the minister announced preparations for a public scheme for healthcare workers who provided frequent and intensive care to COVID patients in the first wave of the pandemic and are now unable to work due to long-COVID symptoms. The outcome of this summary proceedings will be considered in the further development of the scheme. The unions sought compensation from the State for care workers who contracted COVID-19 while working during the pandemic and are now suffering from long-COVID conditions. They argued that the State failed to protect care workers adequately and breached its duty of care towards them.

The unions were requesting a payment of €22,839 per person, or a determined amount in good justice, for each aggrieved person who submits an application. They were also requesting consultations with the State to investigate the possibilities of a scheme to financially support care employees with long-COVID conditions, without financial contributions from third parties. The State denied the allegations, arguing that the claims were inadmissible because the requirements for filing a collective action had not been met, and the requirements for awarding a monetary claim in summary proceedings were not met either.

The court ruled that the trade unions' claims were inadmissible because the requirement that the legal actions instituted serve to protect similar interests has not been met, given the diversity within the group of those affected. The court found that the circumstances under which the injured parties performed their work and the policy that applied to them were not uniform, and individual assessments of the extent of the damages suffered by each victim would be necessary. The court thus dismissed the claims made by the trade unions.

Reference: ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2023:2686.

Full text of the decision available at nl