CESTNETHERLANDS - The Dutch Central Bank (DNB), the main regulator of the Dutch pension sector, is facing its own pension crisis over the coming weeks as ex-employees of the DNB are taking the bank to court in relation to lower overall benefit payments.

A group of pensioners is taking DNB to task over its decision to cut healthcare payments and pay compensation for their loss into their pension plans, as the group believes pensioners will be financially penalized.

DNB shook off its healthcare liabilities on April 1 this year with a one-time gross payment of EUR3.300 per pensioner to the pension fund, to compensate members for a reduction in their healthcare benefits.

However, according to Henri Ten Dam, chairman of the group of ex-DNB employees, research conducted by the pensioners suggests 80% of pensioners will be hit financially over the coming years and 1400 DNB pensioners will lose around €1,800 euros per year.

The regulator has stated it will wait until the court case concludes before it comments on the matter.

Under the new Dutch healthcare system, introduced last year, every individual now has to find a private healthcare plan and has the right to choose which healthcare insurer they buy it from. Before this new arrangement, employees earning less than €28,000 a year were "insured" by the government but changes now mean everyone has to finance some of the risk of the plan themselves and premiums have gone up.

As this shift affects employers offering payments towards healthcare plans, reforms were introduced which meant employees would receive compensation from their respective employers if they lose healthcare benefits.

However, there is no compulsory requirement to compensate pensioners who will now also have to pay additional premiums so, in certain cases, pensioners may ask for a so-called healthcare subsidy from the tax office.

The move by DNB pension fund to reduce its healthcare liabilities is not new as several other pension funds have taken a similar step to either end their healthcare contributions or to decrease them gradually. Philips, Nuon, ABN Amro and Akzo Nobel pension funds have taken action to free up several million euros which were put aside for healthcare contributions.

At the same time as this latest action, some of DNB's current employees are also resisting the move by the regulator to implement reforms requiring employees to pay pension premiums as until the merger with the PVK in 2004, DNB employees did not have to pay any premiums.