Union demands referendum on Cabinet cutbacks
4 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Trade union confederation FNV has demanded a referendum over changes to early retirement schemes as the Dutch Cabinet indicated it was not prepared to alter its budgetary policies despite the mass protest in Amsterdam at the weekend.
4 October 2004
AMSTERDAM — Trade union confederation FNV has demanded a referendum over changes to early retirement schemes as the Dutch Cabinet indicated it was not prepared to alter its budgetary policies despite the mass protest in Amsterdam at the weekend.
Police estimate that 200,000 people took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the government's socio-economic policies. It is being described as the Netherlands' second largest post-World War II demonstration.
In 1991, about 250,000 people demonstrated in The Hague against cuts to the WAO worker disability scheme. The chairman of trade union confederation FNV, Lodewijk de Waal, estimates that 240,000 people rallied in Amsterdam's Museumplein on Saturday.
The cabinet has unveiled EUR 2.5 billion in budget cuts, but agreed to a plan put forward last week by coalition government MPs to reduce the cuts by some EUR 1 billion. But unions and opposition MPs are demanding further measures, particularly in social security, early retirement and healthcare.
Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus admitted the Amsterdam protest was large, evidencing public concerns, but he ruled out discussions with unions over early retirement schemes and the WAO system, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Monday.
Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst said the cabinet has tried its best to negotiate with unions and the matter will be decided in the Lower House of Parliament, where the coalition Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 government has a majority.
The FNV is now placing its bets on a referendum to block the cabinet's plans to abolish the fiscally attractive VUT and pre-pension early retirement schemes. But it will need to act quickly because a temporary law allowing referendums will end on 1 January 2005.
The leader of main opposition party Labour PvdA, Wouter Bos, will demand on Tuesday that Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm initiate negotiations with unions over a new system for the VUT and pre-pension schemes.
The chairman of the Social Economic Council, Herman Wijffels, has put himself forward as a possible arbitrator in discussions between the cabinet and unions, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
But Zalm — speaking in Washington where he was attending a meeting of the International Monetary Fund over the weekend — unequivocally said the cabinet is not prepared to negotiate.
The CDA and D66 have since indicated that negotiations could be held, but not over early retirement.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news