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Dutch unions risk losing pension concessions, minister warns

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  • Dutch unions risk losing pension concessions, minister warns

NETHERLANDS - If Dutch union federation FNV turns down the country's Pension Agreement, the cabinet will carry on with its own bill, without the earlier concessions to employers and employees, a spokesman for social affairs minister Henk Kamp has suggested.
 
He said the minister would simply follow the earlier basic agreement of the government coalition on the future pension system.
 
For example, the extra yearly 0.6% increase of the state pension AOW and the yearly bonus for €300 for workers on low income will be cancelled, he said.
 
In addition, the deal with employers to try to keep people aged over 55 employed, as well as the option in the pension agreement of part-time AOW, will also expire, according to the spokesman.
 
"The current pension agreement is already containing many concessions, and the minister doesn't understand the stubborn 'no' of the unions," he said.
 
Last weekend, the large FNV unions, FNV Bondgenoten and AbvaKabo, turned down Kamp's latest concession to allow workers extra tax facilities for pension-saving as of the age of 62, so they can still retire at 65.
 
In the pension agreement between the social partners and the cabinet, the official retirement age will rise to 66 in 2020 and be linked to life expectancy.
 
Anja Jongbloed, board member of the large FNV Bondgenoten, described Kamp's suggestion as a "moonwalk", as the minister "does move, but doesn't change position".
 
In her opinion, the pension risks remain with the employees.
 
Jongbloed, speaking of "casino pensions", added: "And measures to avoid pensions becoming dependent on the performance of the markets are still absent."
 
AbvaKabo FNV also turned Kamp's suggestion down as "insufficient".
 
The civil service union does not want any changes for older workers on low income and hard jobs.
 
Even if they can save extra for their pension as of 62, if they retire at 65, they will still be facing the 6% year discount of the state pension for every year they retire earlier, AbvaKabo argued.
 
The civil service union also wants a risk-sharing role for employers, as well as "sufficient" certainties for pension and indexation.
 
Pieter Omtzigt, MP for the Christian Democrats CDA, said: "Before they take a final decision on the pension agreement, the unions should also consider the elaboration of several motions adopted by parliament, when it discussed the pension agreement in June."
 
Parliament supported, for example, Omtzigt's call for a prudent rate for discounting liabilities, as well as for solid financial buffers at pension funds.
 
However, he stressed that the motions will be irrelevant if there is no pension agreement.
 
The Federation FNV, which represents 19 unions, will take the final decision on the pension accord 12 September.

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