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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Dutch protest at austerity plan
Protesters gather in Museum Square in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Saturday's rally was the latest in a series of protests
Thousands have taken to the streets of Amsterdam to demonstrate against plans to cut public spending - the largest protest there for over two decades.

Among the 200,000 people taking part, were many carrying black balloons bearing the slogan, "The Netherlands Deserve Better".

Government austerity reforms aim to control the country's budget and give the economy a new lease of life.

But angry unions say the changes would erode the country's welfare state.

Reforms to welfare support and health coverage, as well as a freeze on civil service salaries and the minimum wage, have sparked a wave of discontent across the Netherlands.


"They're taking away our social security, which we're very proud of in the Netherlands," Sjerp Holterman, a negotiator a trade union told the Associated Press.

The plan includes 2.4 billion euros ($2.9bn) of previously announced spending cuts and income measures.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan, in The Hague, says a poll by national radio found that 60% of the Dutch public opposed the plans but the government hopes to have the budget approved by the end of the year.

The unions, our correspondents says, have accused the government of abandoning the traditional Dutch model of consensus-based labour relations.

Union federations have been boycotting talks with government and employers since last month and demonstrated in several parts of the country where strike action is normally rare.

Last month the world's busiest port at Rotterdam was brought to a standstill for a day when 50,000 protesters staged a march and last Monday, public transport in Amsterdam was hit by a 24-hour strike.

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