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Dutch unions, works council clash with casino over pension transfer

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Unions and employee representatives are at loggerheads with Holland Casino, claiming the company wants to liquidate its pension scheme and transfer accrual to a general pension fund (APF) without consulting them.

The parties will meet in court soon over the issue, and the unions have said they were considering industrial action.

State-owned Holland Casino, which runs 14 casinos across the Netherlands, wants to transfer new pension accrual for its almost 3,000 staff to the general pension fund Stap, run by Aegon and its subsidiary TKP.

The €1.5bn pension fund, for its turn, had also decided to transfer the existing pension rights of its 8,000 active participants, deferred members, and pensioners.

A letter, seen by IPE’s sister publication Pensioen Pro, suggested that the contract had already been signed.

Bob Bolte, trustee at the Dutch trade union confederation FNV, argued that the employer had failed its legal requirement to consult the union.

This view was echoed by the company’s works council (OR), an employee representative body. The OR said it also had the right of approval for such a decision.

Responding to questions from Pensioen Pro, Holland Casino said that the switch to a new provider would have no effect on pension arrangements.

It explained that the pension plan would remain unchanged and that the participants would be placed in a dedicated ring-fenced compartment at the APF.

Ed Roijers, director for human resources at Holland Casino and also a board member at the pension fund, claimed that the unions and OR only had a say about the pension plan itself.

FNV’s Bolte contended that Holland Casino was in too much of a hurry to complete the switch and had insuffiently addressed questions.

“We want to see a survey showing that an APF is the best solution relative to, for example, joining an industry-wide pension fund,” Bolte said. He added that other APFs should also have been asked for a tender.

The FNV also wanted a fall-back option in case an APF turned out to be a disappointing solution.

Huug Brinkers, trustee at union De Unie, said he wanted answers about the selection process, governance, and costs. He said irreversible steps had been taken, despite his explicit request against them.

Brinkers said that De Unie had asked supervisor De Nederlandsche Bank to consider the case before it approved the value transfer.

In a letter to the pension fund’s participants, the employer explained that it considered the scheme too small to continue independently, citing “ever more complex legislation, strict supervision, [and] strong expertise requirements, as well as increasing costs of pensions administration”.

In its opinion, joining APF Stap offered the best perspective for a future-proof pension plan. The pension fund said that postponing its decision would not be beneficial.

Willem Kooijman, the scheme’s chairman, declined to elaborate on the issue.

The scheme’s funding stood at 105.5% at February-end.

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