Opinion: Labor Day

POSTED: 07/26/13 11:46 AM

Civil servants in Amsterdam are about to be robbed of an official holiday. The factions of the Labor Party PvdA and D66 support an initiative of the VVD to take away the day off on May 1, Labor Day.

This is not as shocking as it looks. Amsterdam is in fact slow with the measure. The capital is one of the few municipalities that still gives its employees a day off on May 1. The estimate cost for this holiday is close to $4 million a year for Amsterdam alone.

Council members figure that civil servants already get a good deal in return for their efforts and that this day off is no longer fitting in a time of crisis.

D66 has opposed the Labor Day holiday already for quite some time. The party even suggested to turn it into the Day of the Community Service – whereby civil servants ought to give it their best.

PvdA, D66 and VVD have a comfortable majority in Amsterdam’s council, but it could still take some time before they’ll manage to put Labor Day to rest and get their civil servants back to work on that day. The snag is with the staff at the Stopera, where the central employees council made a deal with personnel alderman Eric van der burg about more sober working conditions. But Labor Day was not part of this deal that is now on the books for this year and next year.

St. Maarten’s civil servants still enjoy a day off on May 1. Labor Day neatly coincides with the annual carnival here. That gesture costs the state a pretty penny. The draft budget for 2013 lists 167.5 million guilders for personnel costs. If we count all 365 days of the year, Labor Day costs the government close to half a million guilders – 458,904 guilders ($256,371). If we take it that there are around 250 business day in a calendar year, the price for a single day off for civil servants goes up to 670,000 guilders, or $374,301.

We have 1,823 civil servants on the payroll, according to the draft budget. That means that Labor day is worth between $141 and $205. Not a shocking amount but still, it’s a little windfall employees in the private sector can only dream about.

Who knows, maybe this issue will catch the attention of Finance Minister Hassink. After all, it is not only crisis in the Netherlands – we have our own financial headaches to deal with.

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