Organisation - March 10, 2010

Dutch lower house finds salary Dijkhuizen too high

The House of Representatives of the Dutch Parliament lashed out yesterday at demissionary minister Gerda Verburg for approving a salary of more than three thousand euros.

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During question time in the lower house, Socialist Party cabinet member Jasper van Dijk asked: 'Haven't we stopped giving mega salaries in the public sector? No-one should earn more than the prime minister. And yet, this minister has approved a salary of 313 thousand euros.' Van Dijk based his facts on an article in Resource.
Topple
The Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality admitted that the salary is indeed high. 'You're right in saying that the salary has to comply with the Balkenende standard. But there is a legal status in this case which we cannot topple.'
The Supervisory Board of Wageningen UR is in charge of the appointment, and had requested the minister to approve it, which she did on Monday 15 February. Dijkhuizen's performance bonus, which makes up about thirty percent of his total remuneration, will be reduced to a maximum of ten percent over a period of four years. In 2013, his income will be about 250 thousand euros. The Balkenende standard is 180 thousand euros.
Verburg indicated her approval of the Supervisory Board. 'Attempts have been made to move towards the Balkenende standard. The board has driven a hard bargain, and he has great difficulty in accepting this salary cut.'
Patience
Paul Kalma of the Labour Party did not consider this explanation good enough: 'A contract can or cannot be revised.' He pointed out that the salaries in Leiden and Delft had been adjusted after Plasterk went there to negotiate. The Green Left and VVD parties were also critical.
SP cabinet member Jasper van Dijk pointed out that the employees' council  sent a letter to the minister on 8 February urging her not to let Dijkhuizen stay on for a third term.  'The Supervisory Board has apparently been confronted with this and you didn't intervene either.'
Sharply
Green Left member Inneke van Gent lost her cool when Verburg refused to give an answer as to how much the salary has subsequently been cut.
In turn, the minister reacted sharply when Marianne Thieme of the Party for Animals raised doubts over the autonomy of Wageningen UR. The latter alleged that the university is full of endowed professors who are paid by the private sector. Dijkhuizen's high salary is part and parcel of this. Verburg maintained that Wageningen is fully autonomous and is even one of the best universities in the Netherlands. 'Wageningen UR has developed excellent connections between knowledge and application in practice. This should serve as a model for other universities.'

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