Opposition parties demand concessions for senate support (update)

Christian Democrat chief Sybrand Buma has become the latest opposition party leader to say he will support the government’s austerity package, in return for major concessions.

Buma said in an interview with Monday’s Telegraaf he is prepared to back the cabinet in the senate if he can determine €2bn-worth of cuts.

The VVD-Labour coalition is eight seats short of a majority in the upper house of parliament and faces a difficult task to win approval for its €6bn austerity package.

Pay freeze

‘Let us be clear about this, not to awaken any false expectations,’ Buma said. ‘We do not want the extra taxes and the efforts to reduce the income gap.’

The CDA’s proposals also include bringing forward some of the measures in the social accord as well as more money for people with chronic health problems and a pay freeze for healthcare workers.

Pressure is mounting on the government to make changes to the social accord signed earlier this year between ministers, unions and employers. The deal includes measures to amend redundancy law and cut jobless benefits but not until 2016, when economic recovery is expected.

Sooner

In a joint interview with the Nederlands Dagblad at the weekend, the opposition D66 Liberals and ChristenUnie also said they are prepared to support the coalition in the upper house of parliament, if changes are made to the social accord.

‘We would like to see an earlier reduction in unemployment benefit and changes to redundancy law instead,’ Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 Liberal democrats, told the paper.

The VVD’s economic affairs minister Henk Kamp and its parliamentary party leader Halbe Zijlstra have both said they think the ‘social’ agreement could be renegotiated if it is necessary to win opposition support.

Divisions

Labour leader Diederik Samsom has already said this is not an option. Samsom said he is convinced ‘the social agreement provides a strong foundation to ensure political support for improving redundancy law, unemployment benefit and jobs.’

On Monday the Labour finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem added his voice to the debate, telling BNR radio he would oppose any attempts to ‘blow up’ the agreement. ‘While some aspects of the implementation could be discussed, the principle agreements on redundancy law and jobless benefits have to remain intact,’ the minister said.

Unions and employers also said there can be no changes to the package, Nos television reported at the weekend.

MPs will hold two days of debate on the government’s 2014 spending plans this week.