Dutch PM Rutte responds to disabled woman's call for fair pay

Mark Rutte
Mark Rutte. Photo: Nia Palli / Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded to a letter from 21-year-old Noortje van Lith from Roosendaal. The young woman, who is bound to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, expressed concern over him supporting a legislative proposal stating that people with a disability can be paid less than minimum wage.

"I understand very well that Noortje van Lith from Roosendaal is fighting for her dream job", the Prime Minister said on Twitter. He is in China this week, but he asked State Secretary Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs to contact Van Lith. "This government stands for equal opportunities for everyone."

The legislative proposal in question changes the Participation Act, according to broadcaster NOS. Under this law employers only have to pay employees with a disability who are not 100 percent labor-productive a part of the minimum wage. The remaining percentage is currently paid by the municipality. Under this proposal the wage supplement must come from welfare assistance. But not all employees with a disability will be entitled to this wage supplement, for example because they have a working partner. They will therefore only be paid their 'wage value', an amount determined by an expert based on labor productivity. This will also mean that some disabled employees build up little or no pension.

last week, Van Lith wrote that she is shocked that Rutte supported this proposal. "I know that it takes a little more effort to find an internship or job because there are prejudices about people with disabilities. I'll keep fighting until I find my dream job", she wrote in a letter addressed to Rutte. Accepting an underpaid job is not an option for her. "I have to fight to get a good place in society, and then I am deprived of the right to a well-paid job and a good pension."

State Secretary Van Ark contacted Van Lith, according to NOS. The VVD politician explained to her that the proposal applies to a small group of people with a disability who are unable to work for a regular employer. According to Van Ark, this proposal must ensure that people with a disability who don't have  job can still get one and are not excluded. 

Van Lith understands that some people need this help, but she still has objections, she said to NOS. "My fear of prejudice continues. If an employer sees me in a wheelchair, he thinks that I am not labor-productive enough", she said to NOS. "I want to be treated equally when I have my diploma, just like anyone else without a disability." She will therefore not leave it at that. "I do not know what I'm going to do yet, but I will keep dedicating myself to equal rights for everyone."

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