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Dutch government, unions reopen pension reform talks

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The Netherlands’ three main unions have agreed to resume negotiations over pension system reforms from next week.

IPE’s sister publication Pensioen Pro reported this morning that Wouter Koolmees, the secretary of state for social affairs in the Netherlands, had involved opposition parties in talks about a possible new pension agreement, according to sources close to the government.

In the coming days, the government will continue discussions with unions and employers in an attempt to reach an agreement on work and state pension reforms. This afternoon it emerged that unions FNV, CNV and VCP had all agreed to resume negotiations, which came to a crashing halt last November.

It follows two days of strike action across the Netherlands, with thousands of people protesting against plans to increase the state pension age, among other reforms.

In a letter to the Dutch Labour Foundation and the Social and Economic Council, Koolmees hinted that there was room for “further agreements about less stringent linking of the state pension to life expectancy”, as well as sustainable employability and physically demanding jobs.

Wouter Koolmees

Wouter Koolmees, the Dutch government’s social affairs minister

FNV strike

Credit: FNV

FNV members on strike

However, he did not make any concrete commitments in the letter, and did not mention the idea of freezing the state pension age.

Unions FNV, CNV and VCP have been asking the minister for months for a public response to their demands: freezing the state pension age for five years, cutting the link between an increase in pension age and life expectancy, an early retirement scheme for people in physically demanding professions, indexation of pensions and the ability for the self-employed, flexible workers and temporary workers to accrue pension rights.

FNV negotiator Tuur Elzinga earlier this week promised striking workers that any deal would be presented to them first. “Even if there will be no agreement, we will get back to you,” Elzinga said. “But only in order to prepare new protests with you.”

Union representatives told Pensioen Pro that they saw Koolmees’ offer as a signal that this week’s strike action had worked.

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