"We need strikes like toothache"

Key government ministers have said that they intend to implement an agreement on wages, pensions and benefits despite its rejection by the socialist ABVV union. The agreement, the result of a compromise put forward by the employers, aims to go part of the way in meeting trade union grievances about the federal government's austerity drive.

Liberal supremo Didier Reynders said that implementing a deal without full agreement had been done before. Economy Minister Kris Peeters noted: "We need strikes like toothache."

Earlier in the day the socialist union rejected the deal because the decoupling of the automatic linkage between wages, benefits and prices remains intact.

Socialist union leader Rudy De Leeuw: "If the government sticks to its plans to decouple the index we will prepare a fresh action plan. Our employee parliament says the proposal is insufficient" Mr De Leeuw told reporters after a meeting of union sections. "The government should take its responsibility and preserve the index" he added.