VB, the Dutch body for industry-wide pension schemes, believes the European Court of Justice will rule in favour of current Dutch legislation on September 21, the date when the court decides whether three Dutch companies, Albany International, Brentjens and Drijvende Bokken, can claim exemption from the Netherlands’ compulsory industry plans.
Martin von Zet, a European lobbyist for the VB organisation, says: “The signals are very positive at the moment and rumours are that the court will accept certain compulsory membership of pension funds on the basis of social solidarity – so it seems the decision will go in our favour.”
The three companies are claiming that obligatory membership of the industry plans are both restrictive in the benefits which they can offer to employees and more expensive than alternative insurance arrangements.
Should the case go against compulsion, von Zet says the ramifications for the industry funds could be enormous.
“If the case is lost there will be increased reasons for companies to step out of industry plans other than just for poor performance. This could be when industry schemes collapse. There are people who say this is not a problem, but we believe it is a question of solidarity.
“On a practical level, people who are older and have more risks can’t just go to an insurance company for a pension like younger, less risky employees.”
He adds that the VB considers the second pillar industry schemes, where pensions are agreed upon between social partners, as one of the strengths of the Dutch retirement system.
“It is not like commercial insurance or a personal pension and the two should not be compared.”
Von Zet adds that the new European commissioner-elect for the internal market, Frits Bolkenstein, has made very clear distinctions in speeches between second and third pillar provision, which he says supports the Dutch industry scheme case.