Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 30 September 2009

30th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

State pension: An eleventh-hour compromise?
Wednesday's papers tackle the issue of whether the age for state pensions should be raised from 65 to 67. The government proposed the rise earlier this year but there was such an outcry that the unions and employers were given until 1 October to come up with an alternative.

nrc.next takes us through the problems one by one.

The unions had objected to workers having to pick up the bill for the economic crisis which was caused by the financial sector. Their initial alternative proposed saving the required EUR 4 billion a year by raising top levels of taxation, scrapping mortgage relief on homes worth over EUR 1 million, and increasing the health care payments for the rich. The proposal was rejected.

The employers came up with raising the pensionable age to 67 for both state and private pension schemes. When the unions said no, the employers suggested waiting 15 years before introducing the changes.

The unions have now put forward another idea. They suggested allowing people to work to the age of 70 - but only if they want to. Later retirement would entitle people to a higher pension. This would give people an incentive to work longer which is what the government wants.

Labour needs deal badly
Trouw devotes its front page to analysing the politics behind the pensions negotiations. It says the Labour Party, the second member of the ruling coalition that is faring badly in the opinion polls, has a lot to do to try to reach a compromise solution.

The unions' plan is largely backed by Labour who would like to see Finance Minister Wouter Bos raise the level of tax paid by richer pensioners. This is seen as appealing to Labour rank and file.
Bos has said physically exhausting work should be phased out as manual workers grow older, with such staff being retrained for other jobs. However, Labour MPs want legislation to force employers to play ball. If no compromise is reached Wednesday, this argument could surface and prove an embarrassment to Labour.

Women demand top jobs
de Volkskarant reports that over 200 of the country's top businesswomen have published a manifesto calling for a quota system to ensure more women in top jobs. They point out that latest figures show the number of women on the boards of the 500 largest Dutch companies has only risen from 3 to 3.4 percent over the last five years.
Monika Milz, director of Rabobank SME, said: "The Netherlands plc is selling itself short by not making enough use of female talent".
The manifesto calls for 40 percent of board and regulatory positions in the public and semi-public sectors, and in all publicly registered companies, to be occupied by women.

The quota should be introduced by 2014 at the latest. The top women say they don't like the idea of a quota system, but that they no longer see any alternative.
Cargo trains ignore red signals
In the wake of last week's train crash near Rotterdam, many questions are being asked about safety, or the lack of it, on the Dutch railways. "Goods trains through red lights 70 times in last 5 years", is the headline in Wednesday's AD.
A goods train going through a red light was probably in part to blame for the Rotterdam crash. The AD says such breaches are not unusual, with far too many goods trains using the Rotterdam-Venlo line.
The out-of-date safety system on the line is also being blamed for the crash. The AD tells us dangerous goods are constantly being transported between the two cities, passing through the population centres of Dordrecht, Breda, Tilburg and Eindhoven.
MPs to avoid 'unfriendly' bar
De Telegraaf  reports far-right Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders has come to the rescue of his beleaguered colleague PVV MP Hero Brinkman.

Brinkman is accused of being drunk and hitting the barman of a pub close to parliament last week. Although he admitted he was drunk, "behaved badly and intimidated" the barman, the MP maintained he didn't actually hit him.
Wilders told reporters he has every confidence in Brinkman although he does indeed have "a drink problem". The PVV leader assured his audience that Brinkman had turned his life around and "is not drinking any more'". Wilders has also forbidden PVV MPs from going to the bar in question.

"The people there aren't our friends," he explained.

Radio Netherlands / Mike Wilcox / Expatica

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