The Flemish Parliament is introducing a 5% cent pay cut on its own wages, agreed almost two years ago, following complaints from the Flemish far-left PVDA opposition party.
At the end of December 2019, a resolution to this effect was already unanimously approved in Parliament, but it had still not been implemented two years later, despite a promise to settle it by May 2020 – which is why PVDA reintroduce the resolution on Wednesday.
“To be honest, I thought that this had already been settled for a long time, but I guess it hadn’t,” PVDA party leader Jos D’Haese said on Flemish radio. “So I asked the question last week, but I did not get an answer.”
On Wednesday, D’Haese reintroduced the exact same resolution that was unanimously approved in 2019, but with 2022 as the new deadline.
In a reaction, the Chair of the Flemish Parliament Liesbeth Homans (N-VA) announced that the proposal had not died a quiet death, but had been included in consultation with the other parliaments, according to reports in De Standaard.
In the end, the Flemish Parliament did not wait for that and decided to implement the pay cut unilaterally, MP for the Flemish liberal Open VLD party Willem-Frederik Schiltz confirmed to VRT.
“The intention was to make the status of MPs as uniform as possible throughout Belgium. A study was carried out on this, and Ms Homans brought the proposal to the conference of all the parliamentary chairmen,” he said.
“But it appears that there is some opposition here and there, so we are revisiting the proposal here in Parliament,” Schiltz added. “I have also convened the Extended Bureau (which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Parliament) today and we will adopt the proposal here today.”
However, the salaries will not be reduced immediately: in order to get all the paperwork in order, it was decided to implement the reduction from 1 January next year.
It will also apply to mayors and city councillors: they accumulate two sources of income, which are capped so that they can never earn more than 150% of their parliamentary salary.
The PVDA actually wants to go much further than the 5% cut, and also wants to touch the wages of ministers.
“But this is a matter of principle for us now,” D’Haese said. “It was promised, but not carried out. Now they have to get their act together.”