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Belgian dockers get new sector pension fund

BELGIUM - Belgian dockworkers have won agreement from employers to set up a new sector-wide pension arrangement with contributions of two per cent of wages per annum paid into the plan....

The arrangement, which comes as part of the collective bargaining process between Belgian social partners will mean the creation of a new funded plan for around 7,000 workers and represents a significant boost to government attempts to boost second pillar pension coverage.

Contributions, payable from May 1, will be transferred to begin with to a new account within the sector’s existing unemployment fund and then outsourced to a group insurance plan following further negotiations.

Bob Baete, federal secretary of the Belgian dockworkers association in Antwerp, comments: “We now have a special agreement to do something for the dockers.
“ The agreement is that as of May 1 the employers have begun to pay two per cent of salary into a fund.”
He notes that as of yet there are no plans for members to make additional contributions, but adds: “Maybe this will come when we talk to the insurance companies, but for the moment we have no name for the insurance company that will manage the assets.”

The dockers are set to begin negotiations shortly as to how the money will be invested.
“ Now we have to talk to the employers about how the money will be invested.
“ The Vandenbroucke law talks about the second pillar pension funds and one of the conditions is that you can’t keep the money in your account, you have to give it to external experts to manage,” says Baete.

However, Baete points out that there are still issues over retired dockers to deal with.
“ Now we have to talk with specialists because we have 4,200 retired dockers in Antwerp which belong to a fund that was founded in 1954 with a promise that as long as they lived they would receive a payment from the employers.
Payments into this fund, Baete says, represented an employer contribution of only 0.83% of salary

“ We are also seeking a solution to the problem of workers over the age of 53 to see if a solution came be found for payment before retirement at 60.
“ They can’t join the new system so we need to find a solution.”

He adds that the new pensions system must be fully operational from January 1, 2002, but says all agreements have to be reached before November 1 this year with the employers about how the fund will be arranged.

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