The Netherlands’ largest union has demanded a freeze in the state retirement age and pension provision for self-employed workers in return for its support for system reforms.

In an interview in Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant, Tuur Elzinga, the FNV union’s trustee tasked with the pensions dossier, said that the union had linked the state pension (AOW) to the proposed new second pillar rules “as these subjects are intertwined for our members”.

“They look at the combined financial result, and a decent pension doesn’t make much sense if people don’t have the time to enjoy it,” he said.

In the opinion of the FNV, the Dutch government’s decision to raise the state pension age to 67 in 2021 was unrealistic.

“People can’t keep up with it,” Elzinga said. “In particular for low-paid workers in hard manual jobs, the longevity-linked AOW age is turning out to be disastrous.

“These workers have started their career early and have to work longer, while they tend to live shorter [lives] than higher educated people.”

“We are already preparing for an offensive.”

Tuur Elzinga, FNV

The FNV trustee added that the current proposals for a new pensions system lacked pension provisions for the approximately 1m self-employed – also known as ‘zzp’ers’ – and flexible workers, most of whom save little or nothing for retirement.

“In order to prevent ‘individual pension dramas’, to counter unfair competition between employed workers and self-employed, as well as to keep support for the pensions system, something must be done,” the paper quoted Elzinga as saying

He indicated that negotiations about the position of zzp’ers in the new social agreement between unions and employers hadn’t produced any results yet.

According to Elzinga, “nobody” understood why, despite the economic prosperity of recent years, it was still impossible to link pension benefits inflation.

In the coalition agreement between the four parties forming the Netherlands’ new government, the parties said that they expected an agreement on pensions to be reached early next year.

However, Elzinga said he didn’t expect social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees would force through arrangements without the FNV’s support.

“Given the coalition’s tiny majority in parliament, the government will not succeed without broad support from society,” he said.

Were Koolmees to introduce a new pensions contract anyway, the FNV would block a transition if it thought such a setup wasn’t an improvement, Elzinga said.

“We are already preparing for an offensive,” he said.