Cabinet split on opening up labour market

14th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

UPDATED 14 March 2006, AMSTERDAM — The government remains divided on whether to fully open up the Dutch labour market to workers from Poland and the other new EU states.

UPDATED 14 March 2006

AMSTERDAM — The government remains divided on whether to fully open up the Dutch labour market to workers from Poland and the other new EU states.

Reports on Tuesday morning that the centre-right coalition was likely to back a proposal by junior Social Affairs minister Henk van Hoof to open the borders by 1 May proved to be over-optimistic.  

Of the three government parties, the Christian Democrat (CDA) party was the least enthusiastic about Van Hoof's plan when the matter was discussed on Tuesday. Van Hoof is a member of the Liberal Party (VVD).

Foreign Minister Ben Bot (CDA) expressed the fear that dropping the restrictions on the free movement of labour from the east would cause problems in the Netherlands if neighbouring countries did not also open their borders. "We must not be the well to which all the water flows," Bot said.

People from the eight Central and Eastern European states that joined the European Union in 2004 can only work in the Netherlands if they obtain permission from the Dutch labour agency CWI. Citizens of Malta and Cyrus do not face this restriction. 

Some 30,000 people from the new EU states were working in the Netherlands in 2005. Research has indicated the number would be twice as high if the border restriction was dropped. This would amount to half a percent of the working population in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government must inform the European Commission in Brussels by the end of April whether it intends to maintain the restriction, which will no longer be permitted by 2009.

A majority in the Dutch parliament - consisting of the main government party CDA and the main opposition party Labour (PvdA) is hesitant about opening the borders fully to employees from the east.

Dutch trade unions support opening the borders in principle, while insisting the new arrivals get the same pay and work conditions as Dutch workers. Van Hoof will soon hold discussions on this contentious issue with the labour movement and employers.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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