Is FNV trade union leader Agnes Jongerius our shadow prime minister? asks Syp Wynia on Elsevier.nl.
‘Finance minister Wouter Bos said the talks on reducing the effect of the recession were the toughest, most complex talks in 80 years. A month later, the results would appear to leave us empty handed. Is this what we have waited on for so long.
‘…The good news is that the cabinet has not gone made with its investments. The construction sector has a few more contracts to do up dykes, schools, hospitals and homes. There are subsidies to help pay for small vans to be broken up, extra subsidies for wind parks, the flight tax will go and there is more cash for the education and reintegration of the unemployed. It is doubtful whether these measures are either useful or desirable, but there you go.
‘… And yes, there will be savings from 2011, if the government’s planning agency thinks that the economy has recovered. But the knock-out punch the cabinet could have delivered was to slowly raise the state retirement age – not unreasonable given the increase in life expectancy.
‘But what does the cabinet do? It declares that almost all the savings and reforms it could make – development aid, healthcare, unemployment benefit and the tax break on non-working partners- are sacrosanct. And then, after a month, along comes Mrs Agnes Jongerius of the FNV. Within a couple of hours she makes sure that the pay deal struck for national civil servants (two times more than 3%) remains untouched and a whole lot more.
… ‘It begs the question who is actually in charge here. Why should Jongerius have a right of veto over things the cabinet should decide? Yes, she is in a trade union federation with a combined 1.3 million members. But does that mean the ANWB motoring organisation or Greenpeace should be at the talks as well?
‘ It is sad but true. The FNV is a conservative lobby of older workers, the jobless and pensioners who can stop everything happening without a single demonstrator being given a free train ticket to The Hague.
That says nothing about the power of the FNV. But it does highlight the despairing weakness of this cabinet – a cabinet that lets her operate as a shadow prime minister without ever having taken part in an election.’
This is an unofficial summary of a column by Elsevier journalist Syp Wynia. For the Elsevier website, click here
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