BELGIUM – The Belgian government has instigated a round table discussion between unions and employer representatives relating to pensions issues, which includes issues of concern surrounding the new Vandenbroucke law on industry sector supplementary pension funds.

The talks, part of a wider programme including discussion on healthcare, unemployment and other social benefits reform, are expected to last until December.

Henk Becquaert, advisor to the federal ministry on pensions and social affairs in Brussels, says the discussions form part of the government’s preparations for the impending pensions reform: “The government hopes the round table will lead to social consensus on a whole range of issues that the new laws have brought to the fore.”

Further pensions initiatives instigated by the government include a “road show” to be launched imminently, which primarily seeks to inform the population at large of the new Silver Fund, the reserve fund set up by the federal government to help with the spiralling costs of pensions and social benefits.

Initially the road show will take the form of a small journal but there will also be some promotion via television, radio and newspapers: “Basically, the government wants to create a means whereby it can explain about the Silver fund, what its main objectives are and why it is being established,” says Becquaert.

According to Becquaert, the new fund has met with cautious approval from the unions, who are concerned that it doesn’t go far enough.
“The problem is, whilst they accept the notion of the Silver fund, they want to see money being made available immediately to help pensioners, the unemployed and those with exceptional healthcare needs.”

He says this raises discussion about the amount the Silver fund should receive. “We now have to decide whether to put all the original earmarked amount into the Silver fund or hive some off for other purposes.”