Unions and employers fail to meet reform agreement deadline

Hopes of unions and employers reaching an agreement on their support for economic reforms before April 1 have been dashed as the complexity of the issues bog down the talks.

A deal will not be achieved by April 1 as originally hoped, social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said in a briefing to MPs on Monday evening.

Asscher has been leading the talks within the joint union and employer foundation Star since March 15 in the hope of creating broad support for the government’s ideas. The idea is that this will make it easier to implement the plans and head off opposition in parliament.


‘The social partners (unions and employers) expect to give more clarity during April. The foundation is working hard on different themes,’ Asscher’s briefing said. One source told RTL news the situation is ‘complex’.

Both FNV leader Ton Heerts and Bernard Wientjes, head of the employers’ association VNO-NCW, have already said they do not see their job as to prop up the government.

The cabinet is supposed to present its plans to reduce the budget deficit in 2014 to the European Commission by the end of next month, prompting the April 1 deadline for the unions and employers.


Opposition party leader Alexander Pechtold has called for an urgent debate with prime minister Mark Rutte and Asscher. ‘It is important that we have an agreement but the cabinet should not delay taking decisions because of it,’ he said. ‘It is crucial that moves are made in The Hague.’

Meanwhile, a survey by the Financieele Dagblad and TNS Nipo shows the Netherlands’ business leaders are not enthusiastic about plans to reduce unemployment benefit (ww) from 38 months to one year.

Almost half the 2,000 bosses polled said now is not the right time to make reforms because unemployment is rising and 25% said they were totally opposed to the proposal.

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