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Cultural conflicts dog Air-France-KLM, straining alliance, says leaked report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The 13-year-old alliance between national carriers KLM and Air France is fraught with difficulty and some officials have doubts about whether it can continue, broadcaster NOS said, quoting a company document.

The internal report on the management culture within Air France-KLM highlights the lack of trust between the airlines’ staff, NOS, which has a copy of the document, said.

‘One questions whether the alliance can survive given the long-standing mutual incomprehension between the Dutch and French camps within the group, one researcher was quoted in the Telegraaf as saying.

The 100-page report underscores the deep divisions between the two. For example. a KLM employee working in Paris is charged €10 for lunch, while an Air France colleague pays only €4 which is a minor irritation, he said.

But cultural differences – management methods and matters relating to authority – are more difficult to broach. The Dutch and the French do not understand each other, both want to be the dominant partner and do not put the group’s interests first, the report said.

The report was carried out on behalf of the central works council and involved a Dutch and French researcher interviewing 50 senior managers. The interviews show that Air France workers think the Dutch put their own interests first and do not consider the French.

By contrast, the KLM staff say that their interests are not properly respected by Air France. (DutchNews)

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All is well with the Dutch economy says the CBS statistics office

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch economy remained as healthy in mid-July as it was one month earlier according to its business cycle tracer, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

The CBS business cycle tracer (Conjunctuurklok) is a tool used to monitor the economic situation and economic developments. It uses a selection of 15 key macro-economic indicators, which – together – provide a coherent picture of the state of the economy at a particular moment in time.

These indicators have been issued in the past month or quarter. Consumer confidence was unchanged over the past month, but producer confidence increased along with order books.

Both consumer and producer confidence was above the average for the past few years, the CBS said. The volume of goods exports was 3.3% higher in May than in the year-earlier period.

The biggest increases were seen in the export of chemical and base metals as well as machinery. Gross domestic product was 0.4% higher in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the final quarter of 2016, according to revised figures by the CBS.

Growth was attributed largely to increased investment which was 3.2% higher in the first quarter of 2017. (DutchNews)

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52 unsolved crimes – all Dutch jail inmates to get a cold case calendar

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – All 30,000 people currently held in Dutch jails will soon have a new calendar to brighten up their cells – featuring 52 unsolved murders and disappearances.

The decision to hand out the calendars was taken after a trial in five jails in the north of the country, Dutch police confirmed on Tuesday ‘Of course there are people who don’t want a calendar and who don’t want to be seen as a snitch,’ the calendar’s inventor Jeroen Hammer said.

‘But our trial shows that almost two-thirds of prisoners think the calendar is a good idea.’ The calendar is part of a broader offensive to solve a number of cold cases, which are also being featured on the police website and highlighted in television crime shows, he said.

The trial in the first five months of the year resulted in 160 tips, the same number as are usually made in a full year, police say.

Re-opened

Almost half of them related to the 20-year-old murder of Nicky Verstappen which has received widespread police attention this year. Nevertheless, two of the cases featured on the calendar have been re-opened following tip-offs, Hamer said, but declined to give further details.

The calendar, which has been printed in Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Russian and English, also includes information about how to make a tip off. The accompanying video also states that €800,000 in reward money is available for the people giving successful hints. (DutchNews)

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Dutch pension funds faring better but still not out of the woods

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Despite slightly higher interest rates and booming stock markets worldwide, private pension funds in the Netherlands continued to under-perform in the first half of 2017.

Nevertheless, the coverage ratio continues to improve, the Telegraaf said on Monday. The coverage ratio is a measure of how much money is available to cover current and future pension requirements.

Thus a coverage ratio of 110% indicates there is €1.10 in cash available for every €1 in pension obligations. To avoid downturns, pension funds are required to have a minimum 5% coverage buffer.

But a 20% buffer is needed to qualify as a truly healthy pension fund and, the Telegraaf said, very few pension funds meet this standard. The biggest pension funds are well below the minimum: the metals sector fund, Pensioenfonds Metaal & Techniek, had a cover factor of only 96% in the first half of 2017, but that was well up on the 92.8% level recorded at end-2016.

The civil service pension fund ABP was pegged at 96% on 30 June, while the health care sector fund, Zorg & Welzijn, was at 94%. However, the building sector pension fund was very healthy with a coverage ratio of 110%.

The worse-performing pension funds will have to cut pensions if they do not reach the minimum soon. The Dutch pension system is based on three parts: the state pension AOW, payable in full to everyone who has lived in the country for more than 50 years and at reduced rates for others; collective company schemes, which are usually compulsory; and private pension schemes. (DutchNews)

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MPs want answers on GenX after traces are found in tap water

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A majority of MPs say there needs to be nationwide research to find out how much of a potentially carcinogenic chemical known as GenX is in Dutch tap water, the AD said on Monday.

MPs from across the political spectrum have been shocked by research showing the chemical is present in tap water in at least six places in Zuid-Holland province, where a factory using the chemical is located, the paper said.

Although the water is still considered safe, MPs say there needs to be proper research into the scale of the problem. ‘Dangerous substances should never end up in drinking water,’ SP parliamentarian Cem Laçin told the paper.

‘We should look to see if GenX is in drinking water elsewhere. Plus we need money for new investments in purification processes. The pollutor should pay, and that is Chemours.’

Teflon

GenX is used by the Chemours chemical plant in Dordrecht for the production of the non-stick substance teflon. The AD asked scientists at Amsterdam’s VU University to test tap water from homes in Dordrecht, Rotterdam, Gouda, Goeree, Spijkenisse and Alblasserdam.

Tiny traces of the chemical were found in all the samples, the paper said. The company has a permit to pump 6,400 kilos of waste water containing GenX into the river. In April, the AD reported that officials want the permit changed to reduce the discharge to 2,000 kilos and then a stop altogether.

Carcinogens

In May it emerged that blood tests on people living close to the former DuPont chemical plant showed that some have too much of another toxic chemical, C8, in their blood. C8 was used in the production of Telfon until 2012 when it was replaced by GenX. (DutchNews)

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Government hires almost a fifth more external staff

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government has spent almost a fifth more on hiring in workers and consultants in the last two years, claims the AD on Friday.

Despite calling for other firms to reduce the amount of flexible working, the paper says, the government has not got its own house in order. It has investigated external hiring by Dutch ministries, provincial bodies, municipal councils and water boards, saying that last year this cost €2.4 bn and 13% of staffing budgets.

This was a rise of 19% on the previous year. But ministerial norms are to spend less than 10% of such costs on freelances, flexible workers and consultants. Leading the way was the tax office, which reportedly spent €272 million on outside staff in 2016, followed by the infrastructure and environment and the justice ministries.

Mostly, says the AD, the hires related to IT staff. Zakaria Boufangacha, of the FNV union, told the AD that the situation was ‘disappointing and worrying.’ (DutchNews)

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Police are investigating ‘racist’ social media messages after slavery abolition events

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police are investigating discriminating and racist comments on social media around live broadcasts of events to commemorate the abolition of slavery, reports AT5.

Amsterdam police chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told an AT5 programme that during the Keti Koti events on July 1st – in memory of the end of slavery in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles in 1863 – potentially criminal comments were made online.

One formal complaint has been made to police, he said, and they are expecting more. ‘I know that people are preparing to make statements,’ he said. ‘It really is very serious. If you see these comments, they are deeply discriminatory and sometimes also racist.’

He said the police wants to get rid of anonymity for such commentators. ‘A file on these people will be handed over to the public prosecutor,’ he added. ‘We are doing everything we can to remove their anonymity to show that in this city we accept no racism or discrimination.’

The NOS reports that it too broadcast the events live and via Facebook. Speakers at the Oosterpark included South African author Diana Ferrus, caretaker justice minister Stef Blok and Amsterdam municipal diversity chief Simone Kukenheim. (DutchNews)

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Dutch government struggling to expel foreign criminals

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government is falling short of its targets to deport foreigners who are convicted of crimes despite tightening up the law five years ago.

The immigration service IND said 80 migrants were removed from the country last year after acquiring a criminal record, far fewer than the justice ministry’s estimate of 475 when it changed the rules in 2012.

The stricter rules have led judges to look at applications to withdraw criminals’ right of residency in more detail. Courts use a sliding scale to balance the severity of the crime against the length of time the convict has been in the Netherlands.

Broadly speaking, more recent arrivals are at greater risk of being deported for minor offences.

‘We have to demonstrate in every case that the measure is proportional and balance it against the personal consequences for the foreign national, some of whom have been in the Netherlands for several years and have families here,’ a spokesman for the IND told the Volkskrant.

The application of the law has also been influenced by a European court judgment in 2015 that said foreigners can only be deprived of their residency rights if the government shows they pose a ‘real and actual danger’ to society.

A criminal conviction on its own is not sufficient. (DutchNews)

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Ajax footballer Nouri suffers ‘serious and irreversible’ brain damage

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Footballer Abdelhak Nouri has sustained serious, irreversible brain damage after collapsing with heart problems during an Ajax friendly match in Austria on Saturday.

The club announced on Thursday that a hospital in Innsbruck has been investigating the footballer’s brain functions. ‘The diagnosis that has been made is that a large part of his brain is no longer functioning, and that the chance of recovering these crucial brain functions is nil,’ said the club.

‘This is probably due to insufficient oxygen supply to his brain after the midfielder became unwell during the Ajax-Werder Bremen match in Hippach.’ The 20-year-old is allowed to be moved and is expected to be taken to a hospital in Amsterdam for further care.

He had been flown to the Austrian hospital on Saturday, and the match abandoned, after he collapsed with heart rhythm problems. Ajax said it was communicating partly on behalf of the footballer’s family, who wanted people to keep hoping and praying for him.

Chief executive Edwin van der Sar said: ‘This is the worst possible message. We truly feel for his parents, brothers, sisters and people around him…Abdelhak is such a great talent, but unfortunately we will never know how far his star would have reached if this had not happened.’ (DutchNews)

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Police step up social media presence following successful pilot in Twente

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police are stepping up their efforts to monitor social media use following the success of a pilot scheme in Twente.

The police force wants all divisions to have a strategy in place for investigating social media within three years, the Telegraaf reports. In Twente 20 officers have been delegated to operate the area’s social media channels on a rota basis.

The trial scheme has already had tangible results, such as successfully intervening on Instagram last week to stop a teenage girl taking her own life. ‘We want to make contact with society.

That’s what people expect of us,’ Ron de Milde, who is in charge of the new media strategy, told the Telegraaf. (DutchNews)

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