Cabinet considers pension 'counter proposals'
16 November 2005, BRUSSELS — Top federal ministers met on Tuesday night to discuss the "counter proposals" unions presented in the hope to amend the government's controversial 'generation pact'.
16 November 2005
BRUSSELS — Top federal ministers met on Tuesday night to discuss the "counter proposals" unions presented in the hope to amend the government's controversial 'generation pact'.
And heated debate opened up between Liberal and Socialist ministers about how far the federal government should go in seeking a compromise with union officials.
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt is wary about bringing top union and employer association officials to the negotiating table this week and next. Doing so would indicate real discussions, but this is an impression he does not want to exude.
A meeting with unions and employers was initially planned for later on Wednesday, but it was not certain on Tuesday night whether those talks would proceed. It is possible they might be pushed back to next week.
The inner Cabinet and involved ministers heard various reports on Tuesday night from private secretaries who met with union and employer representatives on Monday.
Behind the scenes, the Socialist union ABVV and the two Socialist coalition government parties have made an attempt at conciliation. None of them is keen for a renewed confrontation following recent industrial unrest.
Unions have drawn up in a workgroup several "solutions" to various sticking points that were central to demands expressed at the time of the 28 October mass demonstration in Brussels.
According to the employers association VBO, the government delegation has only indicated it has received the counter proposals, but has not given an official assessment.
Unions are primarily opposed to the gradual lifting of conditions laid down for workers to take early retirement. The government wants to lift the minimum age for early retirement from 58 to 60.
However, workers will still be able to take an early pension at age 58 if they have had a career of 38 years. Unions are demanding further concessions for periods of unemployment or part-time work. That would especially benefit women.
Unions are also seeking to extend special early retirement schemes for workers in the metal and chemical industries.
Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000 union militants are expected to protest outside the office of federal Employment Minister Peter Vanvelthoven on Wednesday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news