Unions agree to lower wage demands

Trade unions will not call for pay rises of more than the rate of inflation this year as long as the government drops the idea of raising the state pension age, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.

Unions, employers and social affairs ministry officials met on Tuesday to draw up a pay agreement which will help reduce the effect of the recession. The talks continue today.
Sources told the Volkskrant that the unions are prepared to limit their pay demand to the rate of inflation – between 1% and 1.5%. Social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner has called for a pay freeze.
Cabinet plans
But any deal reached between employers and unions will only become concrete when the cabinet has finalised its own recession-busting plans.
Unions want assurances that these will not include cutting unemployment benefit and raising the pension age from 65 to 67.
Trouw reports that talks on a pay deal for the armed forces have been broken off because junior defence minister Jack de Vries refused to sign the agreement, pending the outcome of the pay moderation talks.
Meanwhile the discussions on how to tackle the rececession – which have been going on between ministers and the coalition party leaders since last week – are proceeding with difficulty.
‘I had hoped for more progress,’ finance minister Wouter Bos told the Telegraaf after the talks broke up shortly before midnight.
The paper says Labour and ChristenUnie representatives at the negotiations are disappointed that the Christian Democrats are not prepared to budge on the major sticking points.
The CDA wants to bring in major spending cuts to keep the budget deficit below 2% as agreed in the coalition agreement. But the other two parties back more spending to boost the economy.

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