Seniors, unions attack budget plans
27 August 2004, AMSTERDAM — Senior citizen groups joined with trade unions on Friday to slam EUR 400 million in measures unveiled by the government to protect the lower-paid from the worst effects of next year's multi-billion budget cuts.
27 August 2004
AMSTERDAM — Senior citizen groups joined with trade unions on Friday to slam EUR 400 million in measures unveiled by the government to protect the lower-paid from the worst effects of next year's multi-billion budget cuts.
Seniors groups were particularly furious with Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus. The groups claimed he had failed to make good on his promise to pressure his fellow ministers to scrap the personal contribution seniors have to pay towards their healthcare costs.
Earlier, De Geus had told the groups that he would campaign hard to exempt seniors on an AOW pension or low income from having to pay the health contribution, Novum Nieuws reported.
To compensate retirees' purchasing power, the government has agreed to raise the AOW public pension by EUR 60 next year.
Seniors organisations claim these will not adequately off-set healthcare costs, leaving 200,000 retired people facing acute financial difficulties. Jos Sturkenboom of the umbrella organisation CSO told newspaper Trouw that De Geus lacked credibility and should resign.
Trade unions also attacked the government's measures to protect the purchasing power of the low income earner. CNV chairman Doekle Terpstra described the measures as a fig leaf designed to protect the government's image as socially responsible.
The FNV union confederation criticised the government for not taking steps to prevent the budget cuts impacting on single people, people without children, people with disability or the chronically ill.
The FNV said the EUR 400 million earmarked to compensate the lowest earners and retired people bore no relation to the billions in planned cuts. The government will cut almost EUR 21 billion from the budget by 2007.
And noting that the compensation was being funded by cutting benefit programmes for employees, the FNV said "Jan Average" would be the one who would have to pay the price.
The FNV and CNV called on De Geus to make good on his earlier promise that the "strongest shoulders would be made to carry the heaviest burden".
"The minister will be able to pound his chest in triumph when, for instance, the top rate of tax is increased to help support the lowest earner," an FNV spokesperson said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news