National Strike on 13 February

Belgian trade unions have blown up talks on a framework wage agreement for the next two years and have called a national strike on 13 February. 

The Christian, socialist and liberal unions are unhappy with the decision by the Central Council for Business to limit wage increases to a mere 0.8% in addition to the automatic index rise to compensate for inflation.  The unions say that the scope for wage rises is insufficient and object to what they call the employers' inflexible approach.  They decided on action after a joint meeting.

Unions and employers were set to agree a framework agreement on wage rises for the entire private sector valid for two years.  The negotiations take as their point of departure the wage norm set out by the Central Council for Business.  The unions say that the norm offers insufficient scope for talks.  The norm was calculated on the basis of the contested new wage law introduced by the Michel administration.  The unions claim the law, the decoupling of the index for one 2% rise and stricter rules on early retirement have complicated talks.

The unions want to see a rise in spending power and for employees to benefit from economic growth.  They are seeking changes to the 2016 wage norm law. The caretaker government now has the task of mediating.  Unions and employers have a month to come up with a deal.  Otherwise the government will impose its view on the scope for wage increases, although there are concerns an outgoing administration doesn't possess the power to do so.

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