Canadian Ben Smith named new head of Air France-KLM

Benjamin Smith, the current COO of Air Canada, was named the new head of troubled Air FrancE- KLM airline alliance on Thursday evening, the airline said in a statement. Smith, 46, is credited with much of the economic development of Air Canada and the transformation of the carrier into its present position. ´Smith has been deeply involved in social dialogue at Air Canada. He personally oversaw, along with the human resources division, the collective bargaining talks with trade unions. These negotiations led to historic win-win long-term agreements for the airline, its workforce, and all other stakeholders,' the statement noted. The combine's Air France unit has had very poor relations with its staff for some time now and lost upwards of €400m from strikes earlier this year. The appointment of Smith closes the gap created by the resignation of Jean-Marc Janaillac as CEO after his latest pay-and-conditions proposal was rejected by striking Air France pilots in early May. Smith joined Air Canada 19 years ago after leaving university. A French speaker, he has held many positions at the Canadian carrier.  More >

Relatively few heat-related deaths: CBS

There were relatively few heat-related deaths in the Netherlands during the heatwaves  this summer, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. There was an average of 2,714 deaths every week during the heatwaves, about 100 more than during a normal week in the summer, the CBS said. By way of comparison, there were an additional 400 deaths every week during the long heatwave in the summer of 2006. There have been two official heatwaves so far this year: from July 15 to 27 and between August 6 and 15. The second goes down as the longest and most intense in at least 100 years. Earlier research by the CBS confirms that deaths increase as the mercury rises. An estimated 1,000 additional people died during the 2006 heatwave than in normal weeks that summer. The CBS said the death rate this summer may have been tempered by higher-than-usual flu-related deaths this past winter.  More >

Drought is costing Dutch farmers dear

The weeks-long drought in the Netherlands will cost Dutch farmers about 30% of their normal annual revenues, Wiebe Draijer, CEO of Rabobank,has told broadcaster RTL. 'Farmers are having a tough time right now and the drought makes things even worse,' Draijer said. Rabobank traditionally serves the agricultural sector. Rabo is meeting with its farmer-clients to help improve their liquidity. Draijer said the financial problems are not structural and farmers are facing a temporary shortage of cash. Farmers are dependent upon their bank for financial support as the government has said it will not compensate farmers for damage to their harvests. Farm minister Carola Schouten has agreed to extend bridging loans to farmers who have lost crops and cannot wait until the end of the year when EU agricultural subsidies are handed out. ‘The drought has hurt our farmers and market gardeners,’ she said earlier this month. ‘This is a difficult and uncertain time for them.’ Farmers will also be allowed to spread manure on their land up to September 15, two weeks beyond the normal cut-off point, the minister said. Dutch potato growers and potato processing firms are already in talks to determine who is to pay for the problems with this year’s harvest.  More >

Blok apologises for failed state comments

Foreign minister Stef Blok has again spoken about his comments last month in which he said there are no successful multicultural societies and that Suriname is a failed state. Blok described his comments as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘careless’ in a note to Labour MPs who had called for an explanation. ‘I should not have done this, certainly not in my role as foreign affairs minister,’ he said. ‘I am sorry... My words were in no way meant to give racism free rein or to exclude certain population groups. Blok said earlier that he ‘regretted’ the comments, which were broadcast by current affairs show Zembla in mid July. The minister was speaking to Dutch nationals who work for international organisations and said later his remarks were aimed at stimulating debate. On Thursday, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver called on Mark Rutte to distance himself from Blok’s comments, saying it is incomprehensible that the prime minister has not yet done so. The issue is likely to be raised at Friday’s cabinet meeting and will come up for debate when parliament resumes in September.  More >

Scrapping dividend tax will cost €2bn

The government’s controversial decision to scrap the tax on dividends will cost the economy €2bn a year rather than the earlier estimate of €1.4bn, the AD reported on Thursday. That means the treasury will have to find a further €600m to balance its 2020 spending plans, sources have told the paper. The government wants to scrap the tax in 18 months time. The move to abolish the tax will only benefit foreign firms and was not included in any of the manifestos of the four parties which form the current coalition government. Prime minister Mark Rutte believes the move may encourage more foreign firms to set up operations in the Netherlands. Opposition parties, however, have claimed that scrapping dividend tax is an economically unproductive measure and that the government bowed to threats from multinational companies such as Shell and Unilever to move their headquarters out of the Netherlands. In March Unilever announced it was closing its joint headquarters in London and basing its operations solely in Rotterdam.  More >

Dutchman aims to swim the Elfstedentocht

Olympic open water swimming champion Maarten van der Weijden will on Saturday begin a marathon swim following the 200 kilometre route of the legendary Elfstedentocht skating race. Van der Weijden, who survived leukemia as a young man, hopes to complete the distance in three days and two nights to raise money for cancer research. ‘I was looking for a long distance to cover and something Dutch,’ he told broadcaster NOS earlier. ‘Nothing beats this route of all routes.’ Van der Weijden will enter the water at 4.30am on Saturday and aims to finish on Monday evening. The entire swim will be followed live on the NOS You Tube channel.  More >

Delft student films women using rest rooms

A Delft University student has been caught secretly filming women using the toilets at the student association Virgiel, news agency ANP said on Friday. The student had hidden the camera in a coffee cup which he left in the toilets. At least three women were filmed before the camera was found. The student was traced and has admitted hiding the camera, Virgiel said in a statement. The student society has now expelled him, describing his action as ‘completely unacceptable’. It is unclear as yet if the students will make a formal police complaint.   More >

Green energy producers plan merger

Sustainable energy provider Greenchoice has presented a plan to merge with its smaller Dutch peer Qurrent to Dutch consumer authority ACM which regulates the energy sector, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Thursday. Financial details were not provided. Together, the two companies have around 500,000 subscribers. The transaction is expected to be completed on 1 October. The two companies operate in virtually the same manner by providing green energy and making homes more energy efficient, said Greenchoice spokesman Martin de Boer. Grenchoice said the merger would speed up the transition to green energy on the local level. Conventional energy supplier Eneco acquired a 30% stake in Greenchoice in 2007. Qurrent is 100%-owned by Stichting Doen,  a green foundation which receives the bulk of the Postcode lottery funds. Qurrent is known chiefly as a shirt sponsor for Rotterdam football team Feyenoord. Consumers organisation Consumentenbond named Qurrent the ‘grrenest energy supplier’ for the fourth year running in 2017. The company, which has yet to turn a profit, owns no wind turbines - it is a re-seller of locally produced energy.  More >