"We have clearly understood a number of matters"

Following Monday's general strike against government austerity Belgian Work Minister Kris Peeters has indicated that he is planning discrete talks with unions and employers over the next couple of weeks. The idea is to boost trust between the two warring parties.

Mr Peeters, the government's leading Flemish Christian democrat, told TV viewers that employers and employees should both give social talks a chance.

The Work Minister insisted that a halt to protest actions and polarising statements formed a pre-requisite for any social talks.

Mr Peeters said: "You have struck. We have understood a number of things. Now we wish to negotiate."

"There is no more trust. This is why we will start with a number of smaller discussions to boost trust gradually."

Mr Peeters hopes to raise the issue of how to deal with the decoupling of price rises and benefits and wages as well as the tax reforms. He also indicated that as far as welfare expenditure is concerned the government is prepared to listen to the unions. Politicians should avoid polemics.

The Work Minister is insisting that the government is listening to strikers' grievances and pointed to changes to transition measures for the new early retirement system.