7 November 2005
BRUSSELS — The federal government has agreed to enter talks with employers and unions to put the finishes touches onto its controversial ‘generation pact’.
Once the talks are completed, the government will draw up legislation needed to implement the pact. Advice will be sought from the National Labour Council.
The decision to enter into talks comes after 80,000 union-led protestors gathered in Brussels on a day of nation-wide strikes on 28 October.
Unions are angered by the government’s plans to lift the minimum early retirement age to 60. In turn, the government has stressed its older worker retention, youth employment and social security plans are necessary.
However, the government has agreed to enter talks about the final text of the pact and all parties have reacted with moderate satisfaction.
Employers are pleased the government will keep the pact largely intact, while unions welcome the fact various other elements can be discussed during talks around the implementation law.
To determine the content of the implementation laws, a workgroup will enter into discussions on Monday 14 November.
However, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt stressed on Sunday that no discussions will be entered into around the pact’s main principles.
“The government does not want to negotiate the pact again, but has not closed the door,” Socialist union ABVV leader Xavier Verboven pointed out.
But for Christian union ACV chief Luc Cortebeeck, it was more important that unions had been invited to discuss the implementation laws.
“The National Labour Council can give advice, decisions can be taken in the workgroup,” he said.
Unions also pointed out that the government wants to strengthen the pact with measures to combat youth unemployment and schemes to stimulate innovation.
However, union bosses were strongly criticised on Sunday: Wallonian ABVV secretary Claude Vandermeeren was angered by the fact negotiations over the pact in its entirety will not be held.
Meanwhile, Francophone ACV secretary Josly Piette accused Prime Minister Verhofstadt of breaking the dialogue and re-igniting the fire.
The government launched a large-scale advertising campaign in national newspapers on Monday to inform the public about the contents of the generation pact.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news