BELGIUM – The Belgian Association of Pension Funds (BAPF) has made its final overtures to representatives of the Belgian government prior to the introduction of the new Vandenbroucke law on sector pension plans, laying out its problems with the draft legislation in a bid to have a number of elements changed.

The BAPF drew up a list of three main difficulties that company sponsored occupational schemes could have with the new law and presented them to parliamentarians within the government’s social and economic committees.

Léon Brasseur, an administrator at the BAPF, comments: “We explained the problems that still exist with the proposed new pension fund law and also gave a political message that there are still some technical problems to be addressed.”

Brasseur explained the associations three main messages.
The first, he said, concerned obligations to carry out ‘paritary’ management of pension funds involving social partners, employers and employees.
“We agree that there should be paritary management in ‘social’ pension funds, i.e. sector funds.
“Where we don’t agree is where the company has a DB plan for management contributions and a DC plan for worker contributions. They are obliging us to have paritary management but these are two different funds.”

He noted that there were also problems with the concept of multi-employer funds.
“Multi-employer funds are obliged to have paritary management. But if there are five employers with identical pension funds that don’t constitute a social plan then they can remain without paritary management.
“The fact of putting themselves together as a social plan would demand that they do have paritary management.”

Questions about discrimination between sector and company pension funds had also been raised in a bid to protect a company’s right to offer different funds to different grades of employee.
The BAPF cited two examples:
“Let’s take the example of a company where the social partners wish to introduce a social plan in the company for all employees, with the exception of a category of employees who already benefit from a more advantageous regime previously introduced.
Furthermore, the exclusion of part-time contracts, a usual clause in pension plans would not be possible in a sector fund.

The third issue, he noted, was an overburdening of administration.
“One problem we have is with deferred (sleeping) members. If they move house, for example, there is a privacy law in Belgium that forbids us to get their details and it is difficult to inform them of their pension rights.
“The government is pressing for funds to provide a detailed annual report on capital accumulation etc.
“This risks creating even more problems than we have at the moment.”
Brasseur says information levels need to be reduced to a reasonable amount.
“We can see the point with DC plans but not with DB plans.”

Brasseur says the parliamentarians will present their findings to the government at the start of November.
He added that the BAPF was still fighting for level playing field for its members.
“It is not normal that insurers benefit from fiscal advantages that pension funds do not have.
“We want an exoneration from the 0.17% tax we have to pay on the fund’s patrimony.”