NETHERLANDS - Dutch trade union federation FNV will decide on 12 September whether to accept or reject the new Pensions Agreement, which was agreed in principle between the government and the social partners last June.

Rather than a federation-wide referendum, as originally planned, constituent unions will each hold a separate referendum among their members.

The FNV's constituent union FNV Bondgenoten has decided to holds its own referendum, against the wishes of the FNV federation.

While the federation still hopes the pension agreement will be approved, individual unions increasingly have turned against the deal.

FNV Bondgenoten has advised its member to vote against the agreement. Bondgenoten, the largest union in the Netherlands, kicked off its referendum last Saturday, calling on members to "Say no to casino pensions". The Bondgenoten referendum will close on 14 August.

According to the union, pensions will become "a gamble" under the pension deal, with risks shifted fully to employees and retirees.

The independent trade union has already consulted its members, who have rejected the deal. The pension deal should be considered "a big failure", according to union chairman Rendert Algra.

Another union - Abvakabo FNV - has described its position as "no, unless". Abvakabo considers the deal unacceptable unless employers are legally bound to support their pension funds in times of financial trouble.

It has also called for guarantees that workers in low-income and heavy labour professions will still be able to retire at 65.

The construction workers union FNV Bouw also sought guarantees that workers would still be able to retire at 65 "on a decent income" and said it hoped to achieve this through political lobbying.

It added: "If this can be achieved, FNV Bouw will likely advise its members to vote to accept the deal."

If the unions should reject the long-awaited pension deal, it is unclear how and when the social partners would return to the drawing board.

In the meantime, social affairs and labour minister Henk Kamp may forge ahead with his earlier proposals to overhaul the pensions system unilaterally, including raising the pensionable age to 66.