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Promised work placements not delivered

18 September 2006 – The ZuiderAmstel district is closing an important deal with ISS, but has made no agreement on work placements for students to be provided by the company. Earlier, the district did promise that such agreements would be sought with companies that it does business with, the Social-Democrat PvdA party says. Tomorrow night, a decision will be made.

Two weeks ago, the Socialist Party (SP) walked out of a council meeting in protest against the confidential nature of the discussion of the management of the Binnenhof centre. The SP accused the district of back room politics and of favouritism regarding ‘one of Europe’s largest multinationals’.

According to Alexander Poels, spokesperson of District Chairman Duco Adema, this is ‘yet another example of the SP saying things that are not true’.

The Binnenhof is a new building housing schools and social welfare organisations. In addition, ISS gets to rent out 45% of the building on a commercial basis. The company will have to engage in ‘marketing and promotion’ in order to make the exploitation commercially viable, according to Poels.

During an interim period, ISS will not be charged the full rent. The SP sees this as subsidizing a multinational. According to the district chairman’s spokesperson, however, this solution was chosen because the financial risks for ISS would be too high.

Poels says that the contract was awarded on the basis of a European tender. Companies would not have been very interested in the contract. According to Poels, the reason is that they had doubts whether any money could be made. He says that he is not at liberty to disclose how much ISS will be paid.

The district did not make agreements with ISS on providing work placements, Poels says. PvdA representative Estella Heesen says that the district has earlier promised the council that agreements on work placements will be sought whenever major deals are made with companies.

Incidentally, the district does have programmes to create work placements. This is done in collaboration with Joop van den Ende, a school and the Miranda swimming pool. Van den Ende is building a theatre at the nearby Zuidas.

Earlier this year, a poll commissioned by News from Amsterdam showed that 86% of Amsterdammers find that companies that work for the municipality should be required to provide work placements. Alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb has announced that he will present a plan after the summer.

The ZuiderAmstel GroenLinks (green) party is concerned that the Binnenhof will be too expensive for volunteer organisations. Representative Wanda Pelt says that already there are organisations that have decided not to use the centre. Poels says he does not share this concern.

Social organisations pay a non-commercial rent covering the costs, and their rent will be increased gradually. In addition, organisations that get into trouble can apply for a subsidy.

According to Pelt, however, there is a lot of confusion, for example about the rent organisations would have to pay. She is working on a motion asking not to increase the rent for a year.

Further, she wants that the district looks at alternatives to the commercial exploitation by ISS. In its place, participating organisations should be encouraged to collaborate and to let volunteers help with the management of the building. In the past, this was the case too.

ISS is primarily known as the largest cleaning company in the world. The multinational employs 350,000 people in almost 50 countries, including over 20,000 in the Netherlands. Last June, FNV Bondgenoten along with British fellow trade unionists protested at the ISS headquarters in Copenhagen to demand a better pay for cleaners.

CORRECTION: in the original version of this article, spokesperson Poels' name was spelled incorrectly.


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