All unemployed are equal

Politicians need to tackle the excesses of their own unemployment benefit system as well as bonuses in the private sector, writes Robin Pascoe

Earlier this month the entire executive board at Noord-Holland provincial council resigned, following the publication of a highly criticial report on the way the council invested millions of euros of taxpayers’ money – in banks which went bankrupt.
The report said officials broke the councils’ own rules. There was no proper risk management and some of the money lost had been borrowed from other banks.
The resignations were a signal to society, officials were reported as saying.
The next day, of course, it emerged that the self-sacrifice of the seven was hardly going to hurt them. After all, they would all be able to claim very generous severance packages for the next few years.
The knowledge that you can earn some 70% of your very generous civil service salary for up to six years makes resigning an easy gesture. No ceiling of around €180 a day for them.
Rotterdam, for example, has lost five council executives since the 2006 local election. They’ve left on a point of principle or because they were simply fed up. And a few thousand euros a month for doing nothing is a nice little sweetener. You don’t need to stay in a job you don’t like.
Unlike ordinary mortals, politicians and council executives can claim unemployment money if they quit their job rather than were sacked.
And unlike ordinary mortals, former council executives don’t have to apply for any old job they can get. They don’t have to deal with officials and take courses in writing cvs and networking.
In Noord-Holland, however, generous jobless benefits are not an issue because most of the executives will simply get their jobs back. Only the man who was actually in charge of the money has said he will not pick up the reigns again. A signal to society becomes a very cheap gesture.
MPs are busy putting limits on golden handshakes for ordinary folks while allowing the banking sector to come up with its own codes of conduct. But their own generous jobless packages need tackling as well. Only then can we take their pledges to tackle the rest of the problem seriously.

Robin Pascoe is a founder of

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