Tuesday 11 August 2020

Flower and hospitality industry call for help as coronavirus hits business

Signs at a coffee house asking customers not to use cash. Photo: Brandon Hartley

The cut flower industry, holiday firms and the hospitality sector have all appealed to the government for financial help because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Edwin Vlek, spokesman for the FNV affiliated hospitality industry union, has called on ministers to speed up their plans to relax the rules for emergency unemployment benefit, which companies can call on if they need to lay off workers temporarilty.

Some 465,000 people work in the hospitality industry and without action ‘companies will go bust and that will have a tremendous impact on employment rates,’ Vlek said.

The Dutch cut flower industry also says it is risking collapse because of coronavirus. Prices at the Aalsmeer auction have plunged 50% over the past two weeks and last Friday 20% of the flowers presented for sale were destroyed because there were no buyers, Royal FloraHolland said.

‘Without emergency credit from the government and banks, many companies will go bust in a matter of weeks,’ the organisation said on Sunday.

Meanwhile finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told television programme Buitenhof the government will do all it can to keep airline KLM and Schiphol airport afloat. ‘And we can do that, because the government’s finances are healthy, Hoekstra said in an interview.

Freelancers

However, economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes has been slammed by organisations representing the self employed for comments he made about freelancer incomes on morning current affairs show WNL.

Asked what measures the government was taking to help the one million or so freelancers in the Netherlands who have lost work because of the virus outbreak, Wiebes said that the self-employed had opted for the risk of entrepreneurship.

‘For many it will mean a drop in income,’ he said. ‘And that is something which entrepreneurs sort of opted for. But that does not mean we will let them drown… there is a safety net.’

Safety net

There is a special welfare fund for severe cases of hardship, and they will be able to claim from that. Wiebes said. However, the ruling does not apply to people on zero hours contracts, staffing agency workers or people who own their homes, for example.

Asked about this, Wiebes said the government is continually looking at what needs to be done and will take additional action if necessary.

In Germany, the government has reportedly said it will provide immediate financial support to the arts sector and freelancers who have lost their income because of coronavirus.

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