Minister calls on unions to freeze pay

The government is prepared to offer an ‘arsenal’ of measures to improve the labour market if unions agree to campaign for a maximum pay rise of 0.5% this year, reports Friday’s Financieele Dagblad.

Social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner, who made the offer during talks with unions and employers earlier this week, wants a deal by March 1. Unions have currently set their sights on a 3.5% increase this year.
March 1 is when the current temporary lay-off scheme (wtv) expires.
Wait and see
But the unions have rejected the demand to limit pay rises as part of Donner’s deal, the paper says. They would rather wait and see what proposals and cutbacks the cabinet will put forward to tackle the economic crisis facing the country in mid March.
If the cabinet’s proposals include ‘non-negotiable’ measures such as an increase in the pension age or a cut in unemployment benefits then it would be tactically better for the unions to use their current pay demand of 3.5% as a way to maintain purchasing power, says the FD.
According to the paper’s sources, Donner is prepared to make two major concessions in return for a pay freeze. The first is to extend the shorter working hours scheme by six weeks in a slimmed down form after the current maximum 24 week period.
The second measure is the introduction of a part-time unemployment benefit under which staff would combine working with training.
Both the unions and employers have called for an extension of the shorter working week scheme and part-time unemployment benefits, the paper says.

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