NETHERLANDS – The Dutch umbrella organisation for the pension funds of approximately 65,000 self-employed workers, the Unie van Beroepspensioenfondsen (UvB), has staved off potential action by the Dutch government that could have forced members to pay up to 30% extra per year in contributions.

The UvB, which represents pension funds with assets of around NLG30bn had been locked in discussion with Hans Hoogervorst, the state secretary for social affairs, over regulation to guarantee a set benefit and premium for both men and women.

While Holland’s industry-wide pension funds have agreed to the solidarity principle, the self-employed pension funds, which represent a range of professions from medical experts to musicians, argued that it was impossible for them to comply because members often work alone or operate in varied legal contexts.

At a Dutch parliament meeting yesterday, Hoogervorst agreed to drop the threat of legal action in favour of self-regulation.

René Bastian, secretary of the UvB, comments:
“ The sanction that was ahead of us has disappeared, but on the other hand we now have a moral obligation to work on this matter.
“ The parliament wants to focus on equal rights rights for men and women and that is what we will work on.

He notes that Hoogervorst’s intention was to ‘skip’ the law governing the self-employed pension funds.
“ That intention was not supported by the members of our parliament.
“ They said firstly that we should keep this facility. Secondly they said that they think it is correct that the secretary of state stimulates the sector to modernise their pensions.
“ We think that equal treatment for man and wife is part of this modernisation.”

Bastian says discussion also centred on how representative the professional organisations were of their industry sectors.
“ This was a very principled discussion in which the parties were very far apart and the secretary of state said he was willing to handle this subject with a practical approach, so we think we will find a solution.
“ We represent the pension funds so that the professional organisation make ask ministers to make their pension arrangements obligatory for all members in that profession.
“ Hoogervorst said that he wondered whether these professional organisation represented at least 60% of their members by saying that they want to keep the pension arrangements as they are.”

The UvB must now begin discussion in September and inform the Dutch parliament of its findings in the Autumn.
“ We are happy with this outcome and think it will be possible to find an understanding on this basis.
“ The time of confrontation is now behind us and the time of co-operation is in front of us.”