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Opposition mounts to scrapping minimum wage

14 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch left-wing parties and the trade union movement have rejected a government plan to allow companies to temporarily pay less than the minimum wage to long-term unemployed people they hire.

Labour PvdA party MP Saskia Noorman-den Uyl described the proposal which is to be discussed by the Cabinet in December as “scandalous”.

“The minimum wage is the bedrock of our social policy — you can’t take that away. If you think that employers should recruit unemployed people earlier, there should be more subsidies for employers,” she said.

Social Affairs minister Aart Jan de Geus isn’t a huge fan either. He let it be known, according to news broadcaster NOS, that “valuable work should be rewarded in a valuable way”.

The Christian Democrat CDA minister pointed out there was a facility under CAO wage and working conditions agreements to pay young people a lesser wage compared with older workers.

The minimum wage proposal was put forward by MPs of the Liberal VVD party and accepted in principle by its coalition partners the CDA and Democrat 66. The details of the plan are still to be worked out.

Noorman-de Uyl demanded an emergency parliamentary debate on the issue on Thursday. The Socialist Party and the left-wing green GroenLinks have also signalled their opposition to the plan.

“There is absolutely no evidence that the minimum wage would lead to more work for the unemployed. Unemployment is often higher here than in countries which do not have a minimum wage,” Socialist Party MP Jan de Wit said.

Trade union confederation FNV — which led the national public transport strike on Thursday against social security reforms — was also critical.

“The cabinet has done everything possible to scrap the subsidised “Melkert” job scheme and now it is trying to help the long-term unemployed via the back door,” the FNV’s Harry Lindenlauff.

The government’s plans were given a cautious welcome by the employers’ association VNO-NCW.

The association’s Angelique Heijl said the new proposal could result in more jobs and was very social. The VNO-NCW feels the minimum wage could be reduced by 20 to 30 percent.

“People who have absolutely no chance in the labour market as things stand, would now get the chance to follow an educational course while continuing to work,” she said.

[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]

Subject: Dutch news