New government agreement met with mixed feelings

Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg)Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg)

Unions, associations and interest groups had mixed reactions to the Rutte III government's plans for the future. While some are carefully optimistic about what the Netherlands will hold in the coming years, the new government agreement left others with only concerns, according to reactions on the Volkskrant's liveblog of the agreement presentation.

According to trade union CNV, the new cabinet speaks of a "new balance between fixed and flex work" but does nothing to change the "fundamental uncertainty" in the labor market, chairman Maurice Limmen said to the newspaper. "The government's motto is confidence in the future, but the uncertainty for middle groups is likely to increase in the coming years." Making it easier for employers to dismiss people, does not solve this problem. "Freelancers still have to compete with each other or risk falling off the ladder. We do also see a number of plus points for workers, but the trend of growing uncertainty on the labor market is not stopped by this government agreement. That must and can be different."

Union De Unie also criticized the new cabinet's plans, saying the Rutte III cabinet abandoned the middle class. "This is no middle cabinet with a wide support", chairman Reinier Castelein said. "Work is only done on testing workers for longer, hiring them later, easier to dismiss and making them leave as cheaply as possible. There is no work on a real education agenda and the jobs of 2030. No decision was made over permanent and flex and freelance. Workers remain in uncertainty. It's just an employer cabinet."

Auto industry association Bovag is pleased that the new government is pushing 2 billion euros extra into roads and railways, but wonders whether this will be enough. "In recent years, there were structural cutbacks on infrastructure after all", according to the organization. Bovag also questions the proposed increase on the low VAT rate, which affects bicycle manufacturers, and plans to implement a kilometer tax for freight traffic.

The Dutch association of realtors NVM has mixed feelings about the agreement. "We are pleased with the performance agreements for new construction", the association said. "It is also good that it is mentioned that housing supply must move with the changing demands and wishes. So no longer just building, but building for the demand." The NVM finds it "sorry" that the government is reinstating tax on a private home without a mortgage.

Refugee organization VluchtelingenWerk Nederland called the new government's plans for immigration and integration "harsh". "From the continued self-responsibility of refugees, the plans are now moving to full dependence on municipalities. Because of this, refugees can now only start building an independent existence after two years." The organization also mentioned the lack of a "fair" children's pardon, which the government decided to leave unchanged. "The new cabinet has confidence in the future, but this government agreement does not give refugees confidence in their future."

Elderly organization ANBO is not happy with the agreement. "We waited for more than 200 days for a sum of pluses and minuses, which ultimately ends badly for retirees, people with paid-off homes and a lot of healthcare costs." The organization is especially concerned about low income groups. "It is very good that the middle class benefits from economic growth, but not a the expense of low incomes." The ANBO also said that freezing healthcare own-risk deductibles means nothing if you still have to pay that money in higher health insurance premiums.

Student union LSVb is very disappointed that the basic study grant is not returning. "With this the CDA and ChristenUnie break the previous election promise", the union said. "We can imagine that students who voted for these parties feel betrayed. All studies show that since the introduction fo the loan system, fewer students started studying because of loan anxiety. With CDA and ChristenUnie in the new coalition, there was hope that the basic grant would return."

Student organization ISO is pleased that the government plans to stop university and college selection. "The ISO is pleased to hear that the new government parties are aware of the accessibility of the system. Any student who wants to and can, should be able to study at a college or university. Selection at the gate causes high hurdles, thresholds and obstacles for some students."

The Dutch Friends of the Earth, Milieudefensie, is cautiously optimistic about the new government's climate law. "The ambitions are there", director Donald Pols said. "The question now is whether the pleasures and burdens are divided fairly between companies and citizens and between citizens themselves." According to Milieudefensie, that is the biggest job the cabinet faces. "Distribute the bill fairly and ensure that all citizens can participate."

World nature fund WNF is also cautiously positive. "The ambitious climate agenda is an important signal, but a real green policy is wider than just energy policy." The WNF calls on the government to give nature a central role in upcoming decisions. "Nature itself offers smart and innovative solutions to keeping dry feet in extreme flooding and rising sea level. And future-proof agriculture produces sufficient food and protects the landscape with all plant and animal species living therein. Let nature work for us and make our country safer, more sustainable and more beautiful."