SP lead candidate presents top five examples of EU neoliberal lunacy

15 May 2009

SP lead candidate presents top five examples of EU neoliberal lunacy

Dennis de Jong, Number One candidate on the SP list for the European elections, will use this evening's trade union debate in Utrecht to present the five worst examples of senseless projects from Brussels. According to De Jong, these five examples demonstrate how great the influence of Brussels on everyday life has become. "Brussels is so meddlesome that they are telling the member states how the public sector should be organised and even how much some people should be paid. This has gone much too far. Things which can be better done by ourselves in the Netherlands should not be left to the EU."

Dennis de JongThe top five:

1. Selling off the home help service

The European Union wants to leave as much as possible to the market. They have been trying for years to bring health care under market rules, which means that health care services must be put out to tender. In the case of home helps they have already succeeded, with the result that the important work done by home helps has to a large extent been classified as cleaning and paid accordingly. By means of redundancies, stripping health care to the bone and undermining working conditions, firms try to spend as little as possible on the service. The disastrous consequences of this neoliberal nonsense are well-known.

2. Liberalisation of the postal service

Brussels insists that the whole postal market must be liberalised by 2011. Thanks to our overzealous government, we can now all see where these neoliberal policies are leading. Instead of one postman or postwoman in your street, there are now three. Hardly an example of efficiency. Worse still, postal employees of the formerly state-owned carrier TNT have had to suffer a 15 percent cut in wages and are forced to work longer hours. TNT's competitors are paying their delivery workers piece rate – per letter or package delivered - which means that they do not earn the statutory minimum wage.

3.Undermining of collective labour agreements

National collective labour agreements (CAOs) are characteristic of the Netherlands and many other EU member states. Under such agreements, wages and working conditions are negotiated annually between employers and workers' organisations, for each participating sector and for each skill area or type of work. Up to now Brussels has accepted that such national agreements are binding, including for employers established outside the member state in question. But wherever labour agreements are not established at national level, as is the case in Germany and in Scandinavian countries, Brussels is promoting 'free competition' between workers from different member states.

An example: the German Land (regional state) of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) imposed a fine on a Polish building firm operating on its territory which was found to be paying its workers just half of the minimum to which they should have been entitled under the relevant labour agreement. According to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), this fine was in conflict with European law, because, the Court argued, the minimum wage rates represented discrimination against firms from member states where the minimum was lower. In this way Brussels promotes the evasion of minimum wages.

4. Handing essential services to the market

Brussels wants to see free competition in the energy market. The SP's view is that energy supply is a matter of the public interest, and that providers of essential services should be exempt from market regulations. The neoliberal conceit that the market brings higher quality and lower prices is surely something no-one any longer believes. The Netherlands must maintain control over energy supply and the SP's demand is that Brussels should not interfere with this.

5. 'Unfair competition' from public broadcasters

Public broadcasting has also not escaped Brussels' neoliberal madness. European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has announced that she will deal severely with the Internet activities of public broadcasters in order to combat unfair competition. She has been intelligent enough to delay her decision on this until after the elections. Because what would the voters think of Brussels determining which services our public broadcasters can offer viewers?

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