Union angry as Cabinet opts to restrict sick pay

30th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 June 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet has announced a crackdown on workers who are paid more in the second year of illness than the legally allowed 70 percent of their wage. The government's move raises the prospect of massive industrial action.

30 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet has announced a crackdown on workers who are paid more in the second year of illness than the legally allowed 70 percent of their wage. The government's move raises the prospect of massive industrial action.

The Cabinet has warned that if these workers end up on a WAO workers disability benefit, they will not receive 70 percent of their former wage. They will instead be paid 70 percent of the minimum wage, representing a significant drop in income.

New regulations came into effect this year obliging employers to continue paying sick or injured workers for two years before they come into consideration for a government-paid WAO pension.

In a large number of CAO workplace agreements, it is regulated that workers will be paid 100 percent of their wage in the second year of their illness, Dutch public news service NOS reported on Tuesday.

But Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus is opposed to workers being paid 100 percent of their wage, claiming that they are not given sufficient incentive to return to work and instead remain in the WAO system.

Due to concerns about spiralling healthcare costs and the number of workers on WAO benefits, the Dutch government is moving to reduce costs and stimulate employees to return to work more quickly.

Christian Democrat CDA Minister De Geus had previously warned of a crackdown against employers who pay workers more than 70 percent of their wage in the second year of illness or injury. Employers might thus be forced by the government to pay sickness costs for their workers for five years, rather than the present two.

He is now also pushing to take action against workers and wants both the employer and the employee to co-operate on restricting wages paid during long-term illness or worker disability. The new regulations will come into effect from 2005, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

If workers refuse, De Geus has threatened to abandon an accord raising WAO benefits from 70 to 75 percent for workers judged to be fully incapacitated. The accord was agreed by the government on condition that the number of new WAO recipients was restricted.

Employers association VNO-NCW said the minister's latest measures were "poor work" and asserted that deterrents were insufficient. De Geus countered saying that a financial incentive helps enormously.

The deputy chief of Christian trade union confederation CNV, Josine Westerbeek, said the minister's decision was absurd and out of proportion. She also said the plan would make it impossible for employers and unions to sign CAO accords for sick workers.

And CNV chief Doekle Terpstra warned on Radio 1 of industrial action against the plans, similar to the ones that former CNV CAO co-ordinator De Geus launched before he was appointed a government minister.

Terpstra explained to Expatica that he was referring to a joint protest organised by the CNV and trade union confederation FNV in October 1991 when 250,000 people demonstrated in The Hague against the government's plans to restructure the WAO system in regards the levels of paid benefits.

He said the protest was significant because both the CNV and FNV worked together under an action committee headed by De Geus. Terpstra also said the October 1991 protest is often symbolically referred to and described it as the largest demonstration in the Netherlands since World War II.
 
Terpstra said the protest itself was judged a tremendous success, but was also traumatically experienced because it failed to prevent the restructuring of the WAO system.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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