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Dutch union may call for strike action if pension cuts go ahead

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FNV, the largest Dutch trades union, has warned that the country’s pensions agreement between the government and social partners would be in jeopardy if pension rights cuts were to be implemented as legally required.

Speaking on a radio programme on Tuesday, Tuur Elzinga, the FNV’s lead pensions negotiator, said social affairs’ minister Wouter Koolmees “would be sensible to take a discount of pension rights off the table”.

“Otherwise we would put the elaboration of the accord with its agreed targets on the line,” he argued.

Elzinga emphasised that workers and employers agreed on this, and said the shared opinion would make it easier to find a proper solution.

The negotiator said the union would continue with its preparations for industrial action in case the minister failed to promise to put cuts on hold.

In a clarification to Dutch pensions publication Pensioen Pro, Elzinga noted that concrete actions would be possible after a debate in parliament about lowering pension rights on 21 November.

He added that the Dutch government coalition would not put the pensions agreement on the line one year ahead of elections.

Elzinga added that clarity on cuts was needed before year-end, when the funding ratio of pension funds must be at the minimum required level.

In order to prevent cuts, the government had – as part of the pensions agreement – already temporary lowered the minimum required level from 104.3% to 100%.

The coverage ratio of dozens of Dutch pension funds has dropped to below 100% during the past months, largely due to low interest rates.

At the end of October, funding of Dutch schemes stood at no more than 104% on average, according to Mercer and Aon Hewitt.

Pension schemes that have been underfunded for a consecutive period of five years, must apply cuts in order to reach the minimum required coverage ratio.

The large metal schemes PMT (€86bn) and PME (€50bn), for example, are facing cuts next year, if their funding levels haven’t recovered by December-end.

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