NETHERLANDS - The Netherlands' troubled Pensions Agreement looks to have been saved from collapse after social affairs' minister Henk Kamp made a number of key concessions.
Kamp met one of the remaining objections of the unions' umbrella organisation, the Federation FNV, after promising that employees could continue saving for early retirement through the tax-friendly life course - or levensloop - scheme.
He also agreed with the FNV that workers will be able to save as much as €20,000 in the new tax-friendly 'vitality scheme', which will replace the life course scheme in 2013.
Earlier, the government intended to exclude saving for early retirement in the vitality scheme, in order to encourage employees to work longer.
In addition, low-income workers who keep working after 62 will get €9,000 rather than €5,000 in tax benefits, so they can still retire at 65 as of 2020, when the official retirement age will be raised to 66.
Agnes Jongerius, chairwoman at the FNV, said she now expected sufficient support for the Pensions Agreement when the federation's council met again on Monday.
However, the large FNV unions Bondgenoten and AbvaKabo, which said the government's concessions were insufficient, have warned that there was no agreement yet.
According to the unions, which lack a majority vote within the federation council, the minister's promises have been little improvement on proposals already rejected.
They demanded that the 'work bonus' for low-income employees be in force for the period between 2020 and 2025.
Both unions also claimed that Kamp's proposal for pension saving in the new vitality scheme was simply a continuation of the current life course scheme, and that low-income workers lacked the funds for this kind of pension saving anyway.
In their opinion, the pension funds are still allowed to provide a "casino pension" if they are allowed to take expected returns into account, and employers still have not made promises on risk-sharing with their pension funds' participants.
However, MKB-Nederland, the representative organisation for average-sized and small companies, underlined in a statement that the employers organisations will "take their responsibility" if their pension funds run into problems.
"Within certain limits," it added, "we can make arrangements on the issue during collective labour agreements with companies or industrial sectors."
Although the Pension Federation, the pension funds' lobbying organisation, declined to comment on the negotiation, it said it was very concerned about the lack of decisiveness of European and Dutch politicians regarding the euro crisis.
Gert Kloosterboer, the federation's spokesman, said: "The continuing uncertainty has caused both decreasing markets and dropping interest rates, which comes at the expense of the pension savers."
According to Kloosterboer, the representative organisation is also very worried about the protracted bickering between the social partners on the Pensions Agreement, as "vigour is paramount now".