Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Dutch Army in labour dispute

The Dutch armed forces have, it seems, encountered a slightly unusual difficulty in Iraq, where they contribute 1,350 troops to the British-led MND(SE)'s northernmost sector. Simply, the soldiers' trade union isn't happy about their T's and C's. Yes, you read that correctly - the trade union. It's called the AFMP and it's angry that the field-allowance paid out to soldiers on operations isn't enough. A Dutch soldier in the field gets 39€ a day extra for his pains, plus 27 US dollars a day in expenses.

This has led to a curious consequence of the dollar slide. The figure for expenses was calculated in booming strong-dollar 1996, presumably for the Balkans - but now its value has shrunk quite a bit, to the benefit of the Dutch treasury and the cost of the soldiers. They also aren't happy about the 39 euros, either, on the principle that it might be fair enough for UN duty in the Balkans but doesn't reflect the degree of danger in Iraq.

Whatever the upshot turns out to be, it won't change that much because the Dutch are committed to join the Coalition of Peering at your Watch and Edging towards the Door, having said they will pull out by May. Which means that at some point near the general election, Britain will most probably have to backfill them. Watch out for intense denials of this followed by action.

Over at Eurosavant, this story unleashed a spat in comments with some interesting anti-Dutch stereotypes. (€S seems to have a slight problem with trolls) You can probably imagine (long hair, dope, too good with money etc) what the line taken was. It's probably worth pointing out, then, that the Dutch forces have quite a good reputation with the British, based on 25 years of doing arduous Arctic exercises together with the Dutch Marines in Northern Norway as part of the NATO Amphibious Task Group. I've heard very little of anything from their area, which may either point to my inattention or to a degree of quiet efficiency...rather Dutch, you might say.

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