No breakthrough in bid to end budget impasse

25th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

25 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Exploratory talks between the Dutch government and trade union confederation FNV to end the impasse over the Cabinet's budget cuts have ended without the required breakthrough.

25 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — Exploratory talks between the Dutch government and trade union confederation FNV to end the impasse over the Cabinet's budget cuts have ended without the required breakthrough.

The union said on Sunday it was disappointed that Defence State Secretary Cees van der Knaap — who hosted the exploratory talks — offered very little negotiating room to repair damaged relations between the government and the nation's trade unions.

Van der Knaap met with FNV officials Agnes Jongerius and Ton Heerts on Sunday morning to discuss opposition to the government's cuts to fiscally attractive early retirement schemes, the WAO worker disability pension and WW unemployment benefits.

Faced with a struggling economy, the Dutch government has unveiled EUR 2.5 billion in budget cuts. It is also actively moving to make people work longer or stimulate them to return to work amid economising plans aimed at restoring long term economic strength based on short term financial pain.

But the FNV had hoped Van der Knaap would confirm the cabinet had identified certain areas of its budgetary plans that were open for discussion, but this did not occur on Sunday. The union's protests will therefore continue, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

Public transport strikes were recently held in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, while up to 300,000 people demonstrated against the budget cuts in Amsterdam on 2 October. Trade union FNV Bondgenoten blockaded the Social Affairs Ministry last week.

The chairman of FNV Bondgenoten, Henk van der Kolk, said the FNV's stance had hardened further. It is demanding drastic revisions of the government's socio-economic policies.

Van der Kolk also told newspaper De Volkskrant that an agreement between unions and the government would be difficult because neither the cabinet nor unions wanted to be seen as the loser. He said an accord would only be reached if the government reduced its budget cuts significantly.

The cabinet, unions and employers have not been engaged in official talks since mid-budget discussions broke down in May this year.

But the director of the Government Information Service RVD, Gerard van der Wulp, said on Sunday it was too early to say whether the renewed attempt to open talks had failed.

The cabinet was presented on Sunday night with Van der Knaap's assessment of his attempts to re-open the dialogue. Sources said Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus is expected to reveal his stance about the conflict later this week.

Van der Knaap held second-round talks on Friday with employer associations and union confederations. But the FNV — which also met Van der Knaap on 11 October — had said at the time it was only interested in definite proposals.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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