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Dutch reforms face more delays as union opposition mounts

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Proposals for a new pension system in the Netherlands are facing further delays after two more unions voiced support for demands made this week by the country’s largest union, FNV.

During a symposium about the system reform yesterday in Amsterdam, Tuur Elzinga, the FNV’s trustee for pensions, reiterated that a broad agreement about the state retirement age and provision for self-employed workers (known as zzp’ers) was crucial to the negotiations.

When asked by IPE’s Dutch sister publication Pensioen Pro, unions CNV and VCP also made clear that the scheduled increased to the official retirement age – to 67 in 2021 and from then on in line with longevity – was too fast.

The unions also agreed that zzp’ers must accrue a pension.

The FNV’s Elzinga even cited mandatory pensions accrual for self-employed, whereas the CNV indicated that it was in favour of “encouraging” pension saving for zzp’ers.

However, the CNV – the second largest union in the Netherlands – said it advocated a slower rise of the retirement age, and refrained from linking the state pension discussion to the second pillar reforms.

During the symposium, it also became clear that unanimity about the second pillar reform itself was also far off. The Dutch government has made it clear that the Social and Economic Council (SER) must agree on the reforms and present a proposal to the cabinet.

The FNV reiterated that it still didn’t support individual pension accrual, and said a pension contract in real terms, rather than nominal terms, was still an option for the union.

Elzinga also emphasised that the parameters for setting the discount rate for liabilities should be the same for establishing pension contributions.

Union VCP said that the compensation offered by the government and employers to workers set to lose out from a change in contribution rates was insufficient.

It added that a pensions contract of individual accrual combined with collective risk-sharing – as currently still being fleshed out by the SER – would hardly offer any advantages.

Casper van Ewijk, director of pensions think-tank Netspar and an advisory SER member, emphasised that time was needed to flesh out the “complicated issues”.

Earlier this week, prime minister Mark Rutte indicated that he still expected a pensions agreement to be concluded in spring next year.

However, while answering questions of senator Elco Brinkman, he said that there wasn’t a “plan B” in case the SER failed to produce any advice.

At the same time, he acknowledged that second pillar pensions were a matter of for the social partners of employers and workers.

Rutte also confirmed that the cabinet wanted to have completed the legislation for changing the way contributions were calculated by 2020.

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