Dutch news in brief, Friday 3 July 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
Postmen a thing of the past
Never before has a single company sacked so many people in the Netherlands, writes nrc.next in reaction to yesterday’s announcement by TNT that it will sack 11,000 postal workers. As a result of dwindling quantities of post and competition from cheaper organisations, TNT has to save EUR 395 million to survive.
“This is unique,” commented Paul Klep, professor of economic and social history at the University of Nijmegen, on TNT’s impending mass redundancy plans. At the end of the 1980s tens of thousands of miners lost their jobs but they worked for different mines and the redundancies were spread across a number of years. In 1996, electronics company Philips sacked 10,000 employees but then too the redundancies were phased.
The unions feel they have been sidetracked, as the company did not wait for them to propose an alternative plan. The best the unions can hope for is to extend the period in which the reorganisation takes place so that fewer people will be forced out of a job. What seems certain is that the friendly neighbourhood postman as we know him will be a thing of the past in five to ten years’ time.
Mexican flu more dangerous than people think
Till now, the general public has not worried much about the Mexican flu pandemic; wrongly so, according to AD and Trouw. Research in the US and the Netherlands has revealed that, in ferrets, the virus penetrates more deeply into the lungs than normal flu, making the sufferers sicker.
Another problem is that the virus is transferred on airborne droplets, which means more people could become infected without actual contact with a flu sufferer. The third worrying factor is that the virus could mutate. A girl in Denmark has already been diagnosed with a variant which is resistant to current medicines.
According to the National Institute for Public Health, when the disease reaches its climax there could be 17,000 cases in the Netherlands. To date, there have been 77,000 cases worldwide and 332 deaths. One reason for the disease’s relative innocuousness thus far is because of the season. Professor of molecular virology Ron Fouchier expects Mexican flu to show its real face in the winter. “Our research is all the more reason to go out and get a flu jab.”
Labour party analyses European election defeat
The Dijkstra workgroup which analysed the Dutch Labour Party defeat in the recent European elections concludes, “Everything went wrong that could go have gone wrong.” De Volkskrant reports there was no money, no sense of urgency, no clear message nor correct strategy, no political direction and above all no conviction. Thijs Berman who headed the Labour Party list became isolated, caught between his pro-European convictions and the eurosceptic campaign strategy.
The report appears to have been well received. It names no names but does say the party is run too much from the top down. Labour Party leader Wouter Bos, who was practically absent from the election campaign, said he has taken the criticisms to heart. Trouw’s editorial writes that the party misses the leadership.
To tackle that problem, the workgroup calls for primaries similar to the ones in the US elections so that the candidate best able to convince others they should lead the party into the elections is eventually put forward.
Cartoonist Tom has drawn Bos with a post-election black eye putting on his sunglasses, after he was recently criticised for claiming expenses for a pair of Ray Bans he lost. The caption reads, “Onwards…Again!”
Open season on populism
The European elections have not woken up only the Labour leadership. Other parties have realised it is time for a new approach to Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. Leader of the democrats D66, Alexander Pechtold, is pleased with the development: he is no longer alone in his battle to expose the controversial populist party’s contradictory pontifications.
The Freedom Party’s success in the European elections has apparently shaken MPs into taking Wilders seriously as an adversary. Now they are lining up to take the microphone in order to force Freedom Party MPs to back up their claims with evidence.
Integration Minister, Eberhard van der Laan opened the hunting season on the party. He ridiculed Wilders’ statement in a recent interview in Denmark that, if he had his way, “tens of millions of Muslims would be deported” for committing crimes or anti-social behaviour. There are not even that many Muslims in Europe, van der Laan pointed out. Pechtold pointed out that the best way to tackle populism in politics is to use good old fashioned facts and figures.
Political barbecue as parliamentary recess begins
There’s no getting away from politics in the papers today. Parliament is about to begin its recess and yesterday the annual parliamentary barbecue was held. But even that seemingly harmless event invites debate: the Animal Rights party boycotted the official barbie and held its own veggie version nearby. Marianne Thieme is pictured in Trouw dishing up a vegetarian alternative.
Proud of the Netherlands MP Rita Verdonk has no qualms about eating meat: De Telegraaf pictures her standing between two cooks, one holding a fistful of saté sticks. Other papers picture MPs and ministers holding their plates while they chat. One of the cooks seems to have managed to get himself in all of the pictures taken; perhaps a future celebrity chef to watch out for!
Radio Netherlands / Nicola Chadwick / Expatica