Labour's two faces: against weakening unfair dismissal rights in The Hague, in favour of it in Strasbourg

30 November 2007

Labour's two faces: against weakening unfair dismissal rights in The Hague, in favour of it in Strasbourg

Employment Minister Piet Hein Donner, whose plan for so-called 'liberalisation' of national laws protecting workers from unfair dismissal was recently rejected in parliament, must now reject similar plans brought forward under the European Commission's 'flexicurity' programme, designed to make the labour market more 'flexible'. SP Member of Parliament and employment spokesman Paul Ulenbelt, in calling on Donner to reflect the will of the Dutch people's elected representatives when he represents the country in the EU's Council of Ministers, insists that a law thrown out by parliament must not be allowed to sneak in through the back door via European Union legislation.

Paul UlenbeltThe core of the ‘flexicurity’ proposal is the liberalisation of the labour market through the weakening of laws on unfair dismissal. “This very measure has just been rejected here in The Hague," says Ulenbelt, "so should Mr Donner be agreeing at EU level that it should nevertheless go ahead? That would be playing a dangerously two-faced game. The message he should be taking to Brussels should, on the contrary, be 'no liberalisation in the Netherlands, whether it comes from the EU or not, and whether now or in the near future.”

Ulenbelt's remarks follow yesterday's vote by the in the European Parliament in favour of 'flexicurity, a package of measures supported by the so-called 'Socialist' group, in which the same PvdA (Labour Party) which joined the SP in voting to throw out the comparable national measure participates. In other words, the same Labour Party which voted in The Hague against making it easier to fire people, turned coat when it came to the Strasbourg vote. Should EU Employment Ministers follow suit and vote the package through, 'flexicurity' will become the principal ingredient in a new legislative measure, the Directive on Growth and Employment, under which the Netherlands will be required to lay down a national 'reform agenda'. This will by definition include a measure almost identical to the one specifically rejected by the country's own parliament – and its Labour Party - only a few weeks ago.

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