Currently more than ten percent of the bus drivers in the Netherlands work without pay, Volkskrant reports.
Volunteer drivers are used on unprofitable routes, or so the companies that employ them claim. On the other hand Labour union FNV Bondgenoten claims that the amateur drivers are putting paid bus drivers out of work.
Egmond Online writes that line 408 from Egmond-Binnen to Egmond aan de Zee currently employs over 40 volunteers. Els Geugies, chairwoman of Vereniging Dorpsbelangen Egmond-Binnen (Village Association Egmond-Binnen), says that volunteers don’t just drive: “We also need to make schedules, fill up on fuel and clean the bus inside and out.”
Last month the city of Rijsen started using people who are on welfare as cab drivers. Hermien ten Bolscher of cab company Taxi Gerritsen told RTV Oost there weren’t happy with the cheap competition: “As it happens we were also unemployed when we started [four years ago]. We have had to make some big investments in cars, licenses and other things. It is wrong that we now have to compete with cab companies that get subsidized.”
It’s not clear from the article whether the unemployed cab drivers are forced to work for free. None of the articles mention if the amateur drivers have received training.
(Photo by Michael 1988, some rights reserved)
Tags: buses, cabs, neoliberalism, public transport, right to work, taxis, unemployment, volunteering, volunteers, welfare, work
Multimedia designer Niek Gooren from Weert in Limburg lost his job earlier this year. Applying for new jobs the traditional way did not help, so he decided to set up a website full of funny hyperbole to show the world why it should hire him.
Next to a photo of Niek begging in the street a banner admonishes would-be employers: “As a citizen of the Netherlands you contribute to Niek’s unemployment benefits. Surely it would be better to hire him. That way you and he both benefit.”
Overlayed on a photo of Niek watching noise on the television is the text: “While you are reading this, Niek lies on the couch at home, lonely and unemployed, eating crisps.”
Also: “Did you know that Niek likes his coffee black? That makes him cheaper than the average coffee drinking employee because you will save on sugar and milk.”
Gooren’s campaign appears to be a success. He told Bright.nl that he has got a day job, figuratively speaking, in going to job interviews on the basis of his website. He’s already been interviewed by Banbao (toys), Wehkamp (mail order), Air France KLM (airline) and De Bijenkorf (department store).
Gooren’s website is at helpniekuitdeww.nl, ‘help Niek off the dole dot nl’. The illustrations are screen shots of that site.
Tags: coffee, graphic designers, Niek Gooren, unemployment, websites, Weert
Harry, 53, lost his job as a street cleaner in The Hague due to budget cuts. Harry now gets benefits while he looks for another job. To keep his benefits, Harry has to work as a street cleaner (he has the experience, right?), but for 400 euro less a month. Keeping Harry on the streets sweeping means the government gets the exact same work done, but pays Harry less, so Harry went to the media with this one.
Usually a re-integration into the labour market job is to help people find a new job, so how does this work then? If Harry was learning some new skills in order to get a new job, it wouldn’t have made the papers.
(Link: www.ad.nl, Photo of Broom on wet floor by Shyb, some rights reserved)
Tags: The Hague, unemployment
A while back we reported about a mistake the Dutch unemployement insurer UWV made in which 3,000 formerly unemployed entrepreneurs had—often accidentally—committed fraud during a UWV led worker reintegration program after having been given some incorrect advice. It was the UWV who then made sure these misinformed people were fined, and in some cases, criminally prosecuted.
After a scorching indictment by the Dutch ombudsman in 2010, a parliamentary committee led by Ruud Vreeman collected 2,000 complaints, approximately half of which were by people who had been misled by UWV and who should get their money back. UWV will pay out about 5.2 million euro to its victims, Volkskrant reports.
UWV has instated its own appeal committee for the remaining thousand complainants led by law professor Irene Asscher-Vonk, who has already concluded that “a significant number” of the appellants have also been unjustly accused. Apparently the Vreeman committee never looked at all the complaints in detail, something Asscher-Vonk wants to rectify:
Asscher-Vonk does not just want to do justice to the unjustly suspected entrepreneurs, she also thinks it is important that UWV not be portrayed as a bunch of crooks. It must answer to suspicions of benefits misuse. “Mistakes have been made, but mistakes are made everywhere. UWV is an important and indispensable institution, and the reparation of trust is important.”
Interestingly, UWV pays on average 5,000 euro back per victim, but originally fined them 15,000 euro on average. That means either UWV will not pay back everything, or the real fraud in that pool of 3,000 entrepreneurs has been taking the insurer for much more than fifteen grand a pop.
(Photo of Atelier van Lieshout’s “Food Cart” by me—part of the Art Zuid set)
Tags: benefits, crime, criminals, fraud, Ruud Vreeman, unemployment, unemployment benefits, UWV, work
It took a trip to the Dutch supreme court, but reality show contestant Natasia Blank finally got the unemployment benefits she wanted, Elsevier reports.
Last Friday the judges confirmed the verdict of a lower court. The court felt that since Blank was paid to appear on the show, and she paid unemployment insurance, what she did—even if it was just loafing about all day—counted as real work.
Blank participated in a show called De Gouden Kooi (The Golden Cage) in 2006. Her appearance was heavily criticized at the time, even leading to questions in parliament, because she had left two young children in order to participate.
(Illustration: Photo by Wikimedia user Producer, some rights reserved. Press release Supreme Court.)
Tags: Big Brother, unemployment, unemployment benefits, working
Here are some interesting updates of past 24 Oranges stories.
* Lucia de Berk, the serial killer seemingly convicted on the basis of flawed statistics, received some good news today. Now that her case has been re-opened, the public prosecutor has asked the court to free her and drop all charges against the former nurse.
In 2004 De Berk, nicknamed Angel of Death, received a life sentence for seven murders and three attempted murders of patients under her care. Rather than proving murders had taken place, the prosecution shopped for natural deaths that could pass for suspicious, and if it turned out that De Berk had been working when the alleged victims died, added them to its list. After statisticians brought their objections to this method to public attention, the supreme court decided to let a lower court re-open the case.
The verdict has been announced for April 14.
* Minister Donner of the department of Social Affairs has been told by parliament to re-open the cases of unemployed entrepreneurs who were accused of fraud and sometimes prosecuted for it by UWV, the same organisation that had been feeding them false information that led to this ‘fraud’ in the first place.
The accused were participating in a work re-integration programme that allowed them to set up their own companies while still receiving benefits during the incubation phase. They received benefits for the difference between hours worked and hours available for work, where UWV initially defined ‘hours worked’ as ‘hours billed.’ However, the law says that non-billable hours also count as ‘hours worked.’
UWV (formerly known as GAK) is a private institute that is tasked with distributing unemployment benefits under the supervision of Donner’s department. When the minister pointed out that opening dossiers of already convicted felons was ‘impossible,’ that only seemed to rub parliament the wrong way, according to NRC.
* The Delft students that designed the eco-friendly Superbus are currently building a working prototype. In 2009, after extensive testing on a track, the chassis was built (see image).
The Superbus is a 15-metre-long vehicle that fits 23 passengers. It drives over a dedicated, cheap, concrete lane and doesn’t use bus stops. Instead, prospective passengers indicate where and when they want to board, and presumably the driver caters to these wishes. The Superbus is electrically powered, using lithium polymer battery packs and regenerative braking. Its top speed is 250 kilometres per hour (155 mph). Top Gear, are you reading this?
(Source photo: Superbus)
Tags: buses, economic crisis, law, Lucia de Berk, murder, serial killers, TU Delft, unemployment, Wubbo Ockels
UWV, the Dutch unemployment agency, is suing and sometimes prosecuting formerly unemployed people who followed UWV’s incorrect advice on how to report earnings. The victims participated in a scheme active from 2004 to 2006 in which they could start a company while still receiving benefits.
UWV’s argument revolves around the criterion for the amount of hours worked. Originally, the agency only counted billable hours, but since then it has started counting all hours that one puts into a business. UWV found discrepancies between what entrepreneurs reported to them and to the tax service. As databases of governmental agencies are linked, and the tax service gives single person companies certain breaks depending on the amount of hours they put in, it was easy for the agency to figure out the differences in hours reported.
NRC reports that people who have only recently recovered from unemployment have received fines as high as 50,000 euro, with an average of 15,000 euro. Ronald van der Krogt of union FNV says that as much as 42% of all participants in the reintegration program applied the rules incorrectly, in hindsight. “Allegedly those people are all frauds. You cannot maintain such a thing with a straight face. If that is the rule, then the rule is wrong. UWV are failing big time.”
Judges’ hands appear to be tied. A ruling from 1996 found that UWV’s most recent interpretation of the law is the correct one. (Which by the way strikes me as odd, since the reintegration program is a much more recent affair.) This means that even sitting at the office and reading a paper or picking your nose would have gotten you branded a fraud if you forgot to report those hours as work.
UWV has said it will take FNV’s complaints very seriously.
(Link: Geen Commentaar.)
Tags: benefits, FNV, unemployment, unemployment benefits, unions, UWV, work
UWV, the Dutch organisation responsible for unemployment benefits, is going to train 200 unemployed and inexperienced young people to become junior job counsellors, Z24 reports (Dutch).
The first batch of 100 university or polytechnic schooled young people will start training right away, so that they can get started on their new job on October 1. The economic crisis is particularly brutal on this segment of the population who often deal with this by staying in school longer (Dutch) in the hopes of waiting out the crisis. Youths can get a student loan for up to 7 years.
Tags: crisis, economic crisis, unemployment, UWV, work, young, youths
Men of age 45 and older are not sharing in the general economic downturn, reports Z24 (Dutch). To the contrary, in May of this year 9,000 more men of that age group were employed than in May 2008.
Statistics Netherlands economist Michiel Vergeer explains to the financial news site: “These are the people who have been in their jobs for a long time, you just cannot get rid of them. But once they have become unemployed, it becomes very difficult for them to find another job.”
In the Netherlands jobs are ‘protected,’ meaning that you have to get permission from a court to be able to fire somebody. Although mass lay-offs are possible, courts tend to spare older employees during such procedures. Unemployment has risen 8,000 from April to May, a number Vergeer calls “still modest.”
(Photo by Erich Ferdinand, some rights reserved.)
Tags: crisis, economy, employees, employment, unemployment
According to z24 (Dutch), the Netherlands is in second place on the so-called Misery Index, right after Japan. The index adds unemployment rate to inflation rate, and a high position (low value) indicates a healthy economy.
- Japan: 4,5
- Netherlands: 4,9
- Norway: 5,3
- Denmark: 5,5
- Switzerland: 5,6
- South Korea: 6,8
- Great-Britain: 7,3
- Australia: 7,5
- Austria: 7,9
- Luxemburg: 8,2
You could probably come up with all sorts of reservations against such an index. For starters, unemployment rates are notoriously unreliable, as they tend to be closer related to propaganda than to statistics. But even a Netherlands that is merely highish in the index might be still be doing well because of it. Z24 writer Mathijs Bouman points out that consumer confidence in the Netherlands took a dive the past half year from 15% to -2%. The factors that have a healing influence on lowered consumer confidence? Low unemployment and inflation rates.
Tags: economy, europe, inflation, japan, norway, statistics, unemployment