Employers, unions and opposition weigh in on government plans
Now that the federal government coalition agreements have been announced, everyone is keen to voice their opinions on the outcome, with the opposition sharply critical and employers noticeably content
Flemish government will save money
In an interview with VRT radio, Flemish socialist party president Bruno Tobback said that families will foot the bill for measures contained in the coalition agreement. He said that the government’s new tax break – an increase of €250 in the amount that can be claimed for employment-related expenses – was outweighed by increased expenses that families would have to pay.
He also criticised the decision to raise the retirement age to 67. “This will be the first measure we will revoke when the Flemish socialists are back in the government,” he said.
Groen leader Kristof Calvo said that the new government had made choices that were “inequitable and unfair.” He criticised the decision to raise the pension age and said that there were other ways to shore up the pension system. “The negotiators haven’t necessarily made the best choices, but rather choices … that sound good if you are a right-wing conservative politician,” he told VRT.
“A coherent narrative”
The main Belgian unions also voiced strong opposition to the new direction of government policy. The raising of the pension age would deprive young people of jobs and prevent the creation of new jobs, said Chris Reniers (pictured) of the ACOD union. It would also unfairly penalise workers who were engaged in heavy manual work, he added.
“Growth is our only form of social security”
Reniers also said that the new government was introducing policies that favoured the rich. “The federal government is Robin Hood in reverse,” he said. “They are robbing the poor and giving to the rich.”
But the Belgian employers’ federation VBO warmly welcomed the new policies announced by the government. “They contain all the elements needed to increase growth and create jobs,” said Pieter Timmermans of the VBO. “The agreement provides a coherent narrative that will strengthen our competitive position,” he added.
The Flemish employers’ federation Voka was equally supportive of the new measures. “Growth is our only form of social security,” said Voka chair Jo Libeer. “The decision to focus first on economic recovery is therefore the right choice.”
Part of the employers’ approval of the government agreement stems from the skipping of salary indexation in 2015. Two percent of the usual cost-of-living pay rises for all workers will be scrapped. This regulation will also save the government of Flanders an approximate €200 million next year as it will not have to automatically give pay rises to civil servants.
population of Belgium in millions of people, with 6.2 million living in Flanders.
number of state reforms that have resulted in the federal system as it is today.
number of years for which the federal House of Representatives and the Senate are elected.