The cabinet crisis following the decision by three Labour senators not to support plans to give more power to health insurance companies has dominated the front pages since Tuesday evening.
The dispute has, however, overshadowed another significant roll-out of government policy – social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher’s efforts to stop workers from other EU countries being exploited by companies determined to pay them less than the minimum wage.
Asscher’s announcement is ‘not before time’ wrote Volkskrant commentator Raoul du Pre. ‘Cheap labour has economic advantages but there’s a dark side too. (..) ‘Dutch truck drivers are having a hard time finding jobs because they demand a normal wage.’
The new measures, which also hold clients of companies responsible for paying substandard wages and includes hefty fines on those who are found to be in breach, will prevent the minimum wage from turning into a paper tiger, Du Pre concluded. (Volkskrant, 13/12/2014)
The health insurance debate has given the leader writers and columnists a great deal of material – both those who favour freedom of choice for patients and those who don’t – as well as close observers of the ensuing political shenanigans.
Legal health care expert Ernst Hulst, in Trouw, was jubilant about the outcome: ‘Not all MPs bought into the idea of a free health care market’ he enthused. ‘Free market health care pushes up costs and infringes on the fundamental right of equal accessibility and physical integrity for all. But fundamental rights are not bargaining chips.’ (Trouw, 18/12/2014)
The NRC focused on another aspect of the health care debate – the cabinet’s plans to by-pass the upper chamber to push through its legislation by means of a so-called ‘algemene maatregel van bestuur’ a measure only used in an emergency.
The second cabinet to be led by prime minister Mark Rutte has ‘escaped an untimely end,’ the paper said. But the mutterings of the until now compliant opposition parties about ‘back donor policies’ mean that ‘it is far from clear how things will develop.’ (NRC, 19/12/2014)
Elsevier, by contrast, commented on the behaviour of the three rebellious Labour senators. ‘There seems to be a complete lack of leadership in the party and the question has to be asked: Is Labour a trustworthy coalition partner?’, it wrote. (..) ‘There are fallings out in any coalition but this is far more serious. The defeatist Labour policy is making it impossible for the cabinet to govern’. (Elsevier, 19/12/2014cab
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