Unions are watching you, ministers warned

Union chiefs have warned ministers not to attempt to break open agreed pay deals, cut pensions or increase the retirement age in an effort to head off the worst effects of the recession.

Ministers must not take ‘any steps which will increase rather than decrease unrest,’ Agnes Jongerius, head of the country’s biggest trade union federation FNV said on Thursday night.
And plans to reduce pensions or force a rethink of existing pay deals will lead to ‘big problems’, Jongerius said on the Nova current affairs tv show.
First meeting
Senior ministers yesterday held their first talks on a package of recession-busting measures, based on the recommendations of a group of top civil servants.
Finance minister Wouter Bos told the tv show that the first round had gone extremely well and the discussions had been intense and constructive.
There are sharp differences between the ideas of the three ruling parties about the best steps to take. For example, the Labour party wants a cap on mortgage tax relief on houses worth more than €1m and the ChristenUnie is opposed to any cuts in tax breaks for non-working partners.
Social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner told MPs on Thursday night that he had given pension funds more time to build up their assets again so they could avoid cutting pay-outs.
And he said an increase in the state pension age from 65 to 67 would help cut the budget deficit but would not help the labour market. The minister is a keen supporter of reducing the number of people taking early retirement. At the moment only one in four men and one in 10 women aged over 60 are still in paid employment.
Donner has also called on the unions to agree to a pay freeze.
ChristenUnie leader and deputy prime minister Andre Rouvoet told the Telegraaf that everyone would notice the measures that the government decides to take and that they would hurt. ‘It is a very severe crisis,’ the paper reported him as saying.

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