Press Review Wednesday 1 July 2009

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Italian train disaster could happen in the Netherlands
AD warns that a train inferno like the one in Italy yesterday in which at least 14 people died and 1000 had to be evacuated could just as easily happen in the Netherlands. The paper singles out the town of Venlo, in the southern province of Limburg, as a likely disaster site because the shunting yard there is right in the middle of a residential area. Professor of safety and disaster prevention Ben Ale puts “the chance of a similar disaster happening in the Netherlands at one in 200,000”.

However, only last week the Inspectorate of Public Works published a damning report on the laxity with which the rail company Keyrail in the town of Zwijndrecht treats wagons containing hazardous substances. The inspectorate found that a third of the wagons were either wrongly labelled or put together incorrectly. A criminal investigation is underway.

And if that weren’t already bad enough, even more unnerving is the fact - according to Trouw at least – that the Dutch medical emergency services are not properly prepared for a disaster. None of the 25 ‘security regions’ into which the country is divided is able to cope with a disaster independently. For instance, the number of ambulances and hospital beds available is based on normal requirements.

Health Minister Ab Klink and Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst want to improve the current situation so that in the event of a major disaster there will be enough ambulances to take care of all seriously-injured victims within an hour, thus improving survival rates. At the moment only six regions can do this. In practice, neighbouring regions spontaneously help out as we recently saw with the Turkish Airlines crash at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. However, communications between the different regions is less than optimal. Well that’s not very reassuring, is it?

Companies ask staff to take pay cuts
What would you choose – a pay rise with the possibility of hundreds of jobs being lost, or no pay rise in exchange for fewer job losses? That is the altruistic versus selfish  question asked on the front page of As the recession gets deeper and lasts longer, companies are becoming more and more creative with ways to survive the current crisis. KLM pilots have been asked to help out with baggage handling, others are acting as hosts in airport lounges. The managing director of British Airways has asked his staff to work for nothing for a month, also setting an example himself. Up to now 7000 BA employees have volunteered to work without pay. Well, you would too wouldn’t you if it meant keeping your job.

The problem is that there is no guarantee that such measures will mean jobs will indeed be saved. HP Nederland asked its employees in February to accept a five or 10 percent pay cut. But this month it announced another 302 jobs have to go on top of the 421 jobs lost last year. And some companies have become positively sneaky. Postal company TNT and department store chain V&D both sent surveys to their workforce in June asking which they would prefer, less pay or more jobs. Both companies had failed to reach a deal on pay cuts in exchange for job guarantees with the unions. The unions are calling foul play. They say, “If you ask people on the street, they are bound to be prepared to hand in their wages. They are scared of losing their jobs.” Looks like we could be in for a summer of discontent.

Plastic surgeons under fire for blunders
A plastic surgeon whose private clinic in The Hague was shut down by the health inspectorate last Friday says he “wants to put things right”, but it doesn’t look like his former patients will let him. AD tells the tale of 23-year-old Lindsey, who after six years of indecision finally took the plunge and went to the clinic for a breast enlargement operation. Unfortunately, she was one of at least nine patients to suffer serious complications. When she went back to the surgeon with a swelling in her breast he told her it was normal, but seven weeks later he decided the implant should be removed. But Lindsey wasn’t going to let him anywhere near her with a scalpel. When she finally found a hospital that would treat her, the doctor was shocked by what he saw. The implants were removed plus a proportion of her breast tissue. Lindsey has been left with smaller breasts than before and is waiting for reconstruction treatment for her mutilated mammaries.

The same paper reports that a Dutch model, Karen Mulder, has been arrested for making threatening phone calls to her plastic surgeon. The paper does not go into the details of her surgery but does say she demanded restoration treatment. Go girl!

Tears as young people embark on new lives
There are emotional scenes up and down the country as 12-year-olds say their farewells to friends and primary schools. Traditionally Dutch children in their final year at primary school put on a musical to entertain their younger peers and impress their parents. De Volkskrant prints a picture of girls at a school in the northern town of Wieringerwerf hugging and crying in a makeshift dressing room in the school gymnasium. Yes it is really over. Next year they will all go off to different secondary schools, having been selected according to their ability.

Meanwhile, de Volkskrant also reports on a different group of young people spreading their wings. Apparently, student houses providing accommodation for those starting out on their academic careers are becoming a thing of the past. No more shared kitchens piled up with everyone else’s washing up, no more other people’s mouldy food in the fridge and no waiting in the queue to use the bathroom. More and more housing corporations are building single flats for students. The reason: since 1997 students have no been able to qualify for housing benefit if they live in student accommodation with shared facilities. But if they rent an individual flat they do. “You try telling a student they have to pay more for shared facilities,” says student accommodation advisor Remco de Maaijer.

Lucky escape for daft driver
A woman driver had a close shave when she reversed on a bridge as it opened to allow boats through. De Telegraaf prints a photograph of her little blue car teetering on the edge of the Haringvliet Bridge on the A29 motorway near Rotterdam. The bridge had already been raised four metres into the air when the bridge master noticed the woman’s precarious position. The driver was able to escape from the vehicle without assistance, but the police had to rescue her dog from the back of the car.  Police have decided to let her off for driving through a red light. “She’s had enough punishment,” said a police spokesperson.