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Published On: Mon, May 18th, 2020

Cost-cutting counter-proposal unions vague

Government Administration Building - 20200223 JH

~ Unions need to present a more detailed explanation to substantiate their 100-million guilders cost savings claim ~

By Hilbert Haar

How realistic are the cost-cutting proposals the unions submitted to the government? In a statement that was short on specifics, the unions claimed that their proposals would result in savings of more than 100 million guilders.

This amount represents 16.4 percent of the 2020 budget (projected expenditures for the year are 610,557,076 guilders). Where did the unions find those enormous savings?

Their press release mentions cutting travel costs and consultancy fees, freezing training, and reducing gas vouchers and the use of government vehicles. Other ideas are trimming the transitional allowance for former ministers and parliamentarians from two years to three months, reducing salaries, stipends, and allowances for top positions and committee members, and freezing the election budget for three years.

I delved into the 2020 budget and tracked down the expenditures for travel and accommodation, gas, legal and expert advice, and training to get a feel for these ideas. What I found is however rather disappointing.

Expenditures for travel and accommodation, gas, advice, and training across all ministries and the high councils of state are 9.3 million guilders. And achieving these savings would mean putting an end to all travel, to all external advice, and to all training activities.

While it seems to me highly unlikely that the government is prepared to slash these expenditures from its already approved budget, it makes one wonder where the remaining 90-plus million guilders in savings has to come from.

The total for personnel costs in 2020 is, according to the budget a bit over 180 million guilders. A reduction in the salaries of all top earners will never add up to 90 million.

I understand that the unions want an alternative for a cut in the salaries of civil servants, but I would have expected a more realistic proposal instead of an apparent panic reaction.

Maybe I am missing something – that’s always a possibility – but it would be nice if the unions would present a more detailed explanation to substantiate their 100-million guilders cost savings claim.

Without such an explanation, this claim is just a lot of hot air.

The unprecedented crisis caused by the corona-virus has put our community in a tight spot. The economy is virtually dead, companies are struggling to stay alive and our government is out of options to make it all go away. Everybody suffers and everybody will have to contribute to a solution.

You know this cliché: everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

Think about it; the corona-virus has changed the world we used to live in forever. Sending a message, as the unions now have done, that you do not want to contribute to a solution because your members want to get what they always got is not helpful at all.

I hear you! If such a message is not helpful then what is?

Ah. I am not into advice but my personal opinion is that considering the alternatives, I would rather give up a part of my salary than have no salary at all.

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Related articles:
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Opinion piece: “An unthinkable scenario
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Ministers and MPs agree to salary reduction




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