Union, employer reform talks set to take ‘several more weeks’

Efforts to reach agreement on economic reforms between unions and employers’ organisations are set to continue for several more weeks, employers’ leader Bernard Wientjes said on Friday.

The government is keen for the two sides to settle their differences in a number of key areas because this will put pressure on parliament to agree to the changes.

The talks should have been finalised by April 1, in time to allow the government to submit its economic recovery plans to Brussel by the end of the month. The Netherlands has to update Brussels on how it plans to cut its budget deficit below 3% by then.

Wientjes said more time is needed to deal with the ‘many difficult subjects’, but said he felt all players in the talks are prepared to make compromises. Controversial areas include redundancy law reforms, the government’s plans to slash unemployment benefit, and pension reform.


Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said later on Friday he considered the new time frame to be ‘realistic’. ‘This gives me confidence that they are in serious talks,’ Asscher said.

Prime minister Mark Rutte told his weekly news conference that ‘we have enough reason to believe that there is a chance of a positive outcome.’

The cabinet will not set a new deadline for the talks, Rutte said.

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