Informal talks fail to end budget deadlock
12 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Dutch labour confederation FNV and the government remain deadlocked despite talks on Monday night aimed at resolving the impasse over the unions' objections to planned social security reforms.
12 October 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch labour confederation FNV and the government remain deadlocked despite talks on Monday night aimed at resolving the impasse over the unions' objections to planned social security reforms.
Defence State Secretary Cees van der Knaap entered into talks with the FNV to explore possibilities of restarting stalled discussions. A FNV spokesman said after the meeting that the situation remained "troubling".
The spokesman said Van der Knaap did more listening than talking, but the union confederation did not see any reason to call off its rolling industrial action campaign. A nationwide public transport strike takes place on Thursday, coming after mass protests in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The nation's unions are bitterly opposed to the cabinet's plans to abolish the tax breaks on the VUT and pre-pension early retirement schemes. Their opposition to the moves led to the abandonment of talks with the government in spring.
Liberal VVD Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said sending Van der Knaap to discuss the situation with the union group was not a unanimous cabinet decision. He said the initiative originated with Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus.
The arbitration attempt appears to be an initiative by Christian Democrat CDA ministers who are concerned by the widespread public opposition sparked by the cabinet's budget cuts. The government's reforms are designed to restore long term strength to the nation's struggling economy.
CDA leader and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was involved in the decision to open informal talks. But political sources said the decision surprised VVD ministers, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
Van der Knaap met with Jan Willem of the employers association VNO-NCW and the FNV's Ton Heerts on Monday. He will meet with trade union confederations CNV, MHP and small business association MKB-Nederland on Tuesday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news