Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 23

The meeting in Utrecht is a working group of Anbo, one of the Dutch seniors’ organisations. Anbo has set a daring step: it has joined the Federation of Trade Unions (in Dutch usually referred to as FNV). This happened only after long deliberations within both Anbo and FNV.

In Anbo there were many people who opposed the idea and this is comprehensible: a trade union represents people working as employees in various branches whereas Anbo’s members are no longer working but during their working life have been employees, employers or self-employed. In fact a seniors’ organisation represents people from very different walks of life. Many Anbo members were afraid Anbo would be too different from the other trade unions and would lose some of its autonomy being part of a federation with some 17 or 18 other unions. The great advantage of this move is that through FNV Anbo can be directly represented in very important national bodies, such as the SER, the Social and Economic Council, a very influential advisory board to the government in which employers and employees each have a certain number of seats. The advantages of joining the FNV have turned the scale.

In the meeting we discuss some of the consequences of this move, relative to our representation in European bodies. Anbo is represented in AGE, the European Older People’s Platform, but FNV is represented in another European older persons’ organisation called Ferpa. How to deal with representations in both organisations? How will any policy advice of our working group be routed through the organisation, now that a new organisational tier has been added?

Two of us have to go for a short while to another meeting in the same building (the agenda could have been planned better, we all agree) and with one of the persons who has also stayed behind I speculate how our future cooperation with FNV will go. There will be some tough issues to be dealt with, like raising the pension age. Raising this age from 65 to 67 is now under discussion as an answer to the economic situation. Already the FNV has voiced a loud protest, but pensioners may think differently about it. Both of us are convinced that in due time the change will have to be made. It is only logical that we work longer now that we grow so much older: the money for pensions has to be earned. But this will require changes on the work floor as well, especially for people who have physically strenuous jobs.

Another issue that we briefly deal with, after the two others have come back, is the paper of the Ministry of Health for the European peer review. One of my colleagues tells he has seen other reports from the same Ministry for different European events and they are consistently poor quality. This is to be regretted. It is bad for the reputation of the Netherlands, the Ministry does not seem interested in European activities.

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