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Compromise Helps Dutch Stay Afloat In Crisis

Major credit rating agencies say the Netherlands remains one of Europe's few triple-A rated economies, although Standard & Poor's this month repeated a negative outlook.

To help the Dutch government keep a handle on its finances, the first meeting between labor unions, employers' associations and the new Cabinet in December yielded at least one concrete agreement.

The government said it would devote ⿬100 million ($133.5 million) to job retraining programs mostly for laid-off adults 55 years and older, currently the group having the most difficulty finding work, but also for unemployed youth and workers in the hard-hit construction sector.

Jose Kager, spokeswoman for an umbrella group of Dutch labor unions, said that the move was partly symbolic, given that workers stand to lose 10 times that much in long-term unemployment benefits under the governments' current plans. But she said the talks will continue. Unions are not seeking to preserve all jobs, but rather to get the government and employers to agree to stop over-use of temporary contracts â¿¿ which she said deprives workers of their shrinking safety net.

"It's always better to have a seat at the table," she said.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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