Union blockades ministry in budget cut protest

20th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

20 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — About 200 trade union protestors barricaded the entrance to the Social Affairs Ministry in The Hague on Wednesday morning in protest against the Dutch government's budget cuts. The protest was voluntarily called off at about 9.30am.

20 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — About 200 trade union protestors barricaded the entrance to the Social Affairs Ministry in The Hague on Wednesday morning in protest against the Dutch government's budget cuts. The protest was voluntarily called off at about 9.30am.

The demonstration by the union FNV Bondgenoten was part of the ongoing campaign that has seen recent mass protests in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and a nationwide public transport strike last week.

The unions are opposed to government cuts to social security and healthcare, but particularly cuts to the fiscally attractive VUT and pre-pension early retirement schemes. It is demanding the government discuss alternatives.

The Cabinet unveiled plans last month to slash EUR 2.5 billion from the 2005 Budget, agreeing later to an alternative plan unveiled by coalition government MPs to reduce these cuts by EUR 1.1 billion. But the government is refusing to discuss cuts to early retirement schemes.

The chairman of FNV Bondgenoten, Henk van der Kolk, said the cabinet therefore remains indifferent to the mass protest campaign — which saw up to 300,000 people take to the streets in Amsterdam on 2 October — and he claimed it was time government ministers opened their eyes.

Van der Kolk said cabinet ministers have previously indicated they want to discuss the situation, but have not offered any opening for renewed talks.

He said protestors gathered in front of the Social Affairs Ministry — where many of the economising plans have originated — to remind the government they "were still there".

The demonstration started at 7am, but was not officially part of the protest campaign organised by the FNV, CNV and MHP trade union confederations. It was instead an individual action organised by the FNV Bondgenoten.

"This is a surprise action," Van der Kolk said.

The union ended the protest at about 9.30am after it was informed that a special mobile police unit was being called in to end the demonstration. Van der Kolk said the union did not want any scuffles and that it knew where the boundaries were.

It was not the first time that Bondgenoten had organised its own protest. It blockaded the headquarters of employers association VNO-NCW in The Hague on 16 September.

It is not yet known if FNV confederation chief Lodewijk de Waal approved of Wednesday's action, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

De Waal urged the cabinet Tuesday to offer "real negotiation space" and Defence State Secretary Cees van der Knaap to quickly round off exploratory talks aimed at finding common ground to resume talks.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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