Sunday, 18 October 2009

‘Talk with Wilders, but be clear about where you stand’

Last week, controversy arose over media reports suggesting that Dutch trade union federation FNV was in an alliance with the right-wing populist PVV of Geert Wilders in order to stop retirement age being raised. The reports turned out to be incorrect – there was no alliance, just talks – but they did lead to a debate.
It appears that the support for the PVV among FNV members is about as high as among the rest of society. However, newspaper Trouw says that PVV voting FNV members are hard to find, which would suggest that they find it hard to be open about their political views. The newspaper reminds that in the early 1990s, a few supporters of the extreme right Centrum Democraten have been expelled from the FNV.
However, the newspaper did manage to find one PVV voting FNV member: Bert van der Waal (53), a former security guard on a disability benefit. Van der Waal says he votes PVV as a protest against the Social-Democrat PvdA. In his eyes, the only worthy PvdA politician is former Amsterdam alderman Rob Oudkerk. “At least, the man was clear. He was the first to say ‘f*cking little Moroccans’.”
Van der Waal thinks that there is nothing wrong with the FNV having talks with the PVV. “But the ABVAKABO FNV union is calling the PVV racist. So they’re branding me as a racist as well.”
Former minister and former FNV vice chairwoman Ella Vogelaar, former chairman of the Christian union federation CNV René Paas and historian Sjaak van der Velden agree that unions should talk with the PVV as part of their lobbying efforts. However, they should be clear about where they stand. Van der Velden: “Perhaps the union movement should return to the broad social movement it used to be. The union movement plays an important role in shaping society. Therefore, you should talk about more than just terms of employment. It’s also about integration, about how we deal with each other.”

UPDATE – Today, FNV chairwoman Agnes Jongerius was interviewed by Muslim broadcasting corporation NMO. She emphasised once more that the FNV will not collaborate with the PVV and that it rejects its views, but that it will talk with all parties that are represented in Parliament in order to explain the FNV proposal for the old age pension. “I think that anyone who has seats in Parliament should know our story,” she explained.
In response to former politician Mohamed Rabbae, who had called on FNV members to cancel their membership, she said that it is important for workers of all backgrounds to organise. She pointed to the fight for social justice of cleaners at Schiphol Airport, many of them immigrants, and to the FNV’s efforts to remove bureaucratic regulations for retired immigrants.

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