Dutch workers defend social security
By Robert Went
AMSTERDAM — At least a million workers are expected to strike and demonstrate for several hours on September 17, when the government presents its program in the queen's speech from the throne.
The campaign is a response to attacks on social security rights. The government plans to reduce the income of at least 240,000 disabled or partially disabled workers. (There are 800,000 workers on this benefit — a direct consequence of the intense work rhythm in the Dutch economy, which has the second highest level of labour productivity in the world.)
The government is also proposing to punish workers for becoming ill. For every day off work with illness, workers will lose a day of their holidays, and many workers will get only 70% of their wages during the first days of illness.
Finally, the government has refused to re-establish the traditional link between social security payments and average wages.
This last issue almost brought down the government, a coalition between the Christen-Democratisch Appèl and the Partij van de Arbeid. The Social Democratic PvdA, which has close links with the largest union federation, claimed when the coalition was formed in September 1989 that it would restore the average wage-social security link, which was broken in the '80s.
But the CDA, which has 53 seats in parliament to the PvdA's 49, objected, and in the end the Social Democrats gave in to their partners.
Since the coalition was formed, 12,000 of the PvdA's 98,000 members have resigned from the party.