RNW Press Review – Thursday 7 February 2008

7th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

A roundup of today's press from Radio Netherlands.

RNW Press Review – Thursday 7 February 2008 – by Georg Schreuder Hes

Today's AD reports that the Dutch national railways, or NS, still has not put together the anti-aggression teams it had promised to create to reduce aggression on trains.

As of 1 January of this year, a change in the law means that only specially trained conductors are allowed to use violence to restrain or arrest aggressive passengers. All other conductors are supposed to hush up arguments or, when things really get out of hand, call in an assistance team consisting of their specially trained colleagues.

But there's the rub. Even though the NS knew for two years about the impending legal changes, it has only been able to find 300 of the 600 specially trained conductors it needs for the assistance teams. A spokesperson for one of the railway unions says: "I fear that many of the 300 available conductors will quit because of uncertainties about their legal position."

The director of another union argues that the NS should train all its conductors how to deal with violent situations, but the NS says this would take too much time and not all conductors are mentally and physically suitable.

More partially disabled back to work
Trouw reports a substantial drop in unemployment figures for partially disabled workers. The paper writes that ‘things are going in the right direction’ for people with a limited work disability. More and more often, they go back to work, usually for their own employers.

A recent survey shows that in 2007, 62 percent of the above-mentioned category went back to work within two years, compared to 46 percent in 2006. Under Dutch labour laws, workers who are 35 percent disabled or less no longer qualify for disability benefits.

When the current labour laws were first introduced, employers pledged they would keep workers with minor disabilities on their payrolls. The recent survey shows that after initial difficulties, employers are increasingly making good on their pledges; most workers with minor disabilities went back to work for their old companies.

Most of the workers who are 35 percent disabled or less suffer from back problems or other joint and muscle ailments. Psychological problems, including burnout, are also common.

No burqas on buses
De Volkskrant has the latest on the continuing political saga of whether, and to what extent, burqas should be banned in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that there's only a limited number of women wearing this type of garment, the issue keeps stirring up strong political sentiments.

Earlier, the cabinet agreed that burqas would be banned for government workers and at schools. On Friday, the government is expected to announce that burqas will also be banned from public transport. And for those of you cynical enough to believe that all of this has anything to do with Islamophobia, the ban, if introduced, will also apply to balaclavas and crash helmets.

De Volkskrant writes that a ban on burqas was first proposed by Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders in 2005, but the previous cabinet never got round to it as a result of internal divisions.

The current government coalition has decided against a general ban on burqas, arguing that a ban is only justified when the garment in question ‘seriously hampers integration and communication’.

However, when this is the case, societal interests outweigh religious freedoms such as the wearing of burqas. It will come as no surprise that the Freedom Party does not think the ban is going far enough, and has submitted a bill banning the wearing of burqas not only in all public spaces, but also at home.

One-stop subsidies shop
Also in today's de Volkskrant, a report on a government plan to create one central agency which would process all subsidy requests. Or as de Volkskrant puts it: ‘one big subsidies factory’ which is to hand out cash to farmers, artists and entrepreneurs on behalf of five ministries. The plan is intended to allow the government to scrap hundreds of jobs.

In 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, the Dutch government had more than 500 subsidy schemes in place, the equivalent of 17.4 billion euros. The plan for a central subsidy request processing agency is part of a bigger plan for a large-scale re-organisation which includes the scrapping of 13,000 jobs and is intended to lead to a leaner, cheaper government apparatus.

The plan for a central subsidies agency is a somewhat sensitive issue as for some ministers it would mean losing part of their 'kingdoms' including the corresponding budgets and staff.

Hand in your batteries!
Today's De Telegraaf reports that Dutch homes are littered with dozens of used batteries, most of which contain heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium. Recent research shows that some 130 million empty batteries are lying around people’s houses and apartments.

The environment organisation Batteries Foundation and the Dutch retail trade branch organisation have joined forces and later this year will launch a nationwide campaign to stimulate consumers to hand in their empty batteries.

The paper writes that total sales of batteries have been growing for years, and were at 353 million in 2006. Sales of rechargeable, and thus more environmentally friendly batteries were lagging far behind at 38 million. 83 percent of empty batteries are handed in for recycling; the remaining 17 percent are dumped in the trash.

[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]

Subject: Dutch news 

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