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Dutch union critical of widows’ pensions

NETHERLANDS – Dutch labour union federation the CNV says the pensions of widows and widowers are under threat.

In new research, the National Federation of Christian Trade Unions says discrepancies have emerged which indicate that widows’ pensions, Nabestaanden Pensioenen, are under threat.

The CNV says that due to 2002’s pension law, which served to integrate the normal pension plan and the existing widow’s pension plan, widows are under threat of losing out financially when their partners die.

According to the report, which examined 11 of the largest Dutch pension funds, pension funds should indicate to their members that their partners would lose out if no widow’s pension has been arranged.

The new pension plan gives the future pensioner the possibility of increasing their pension by changing his/her current widow pension subscription to a higher normal pension plan.

In several pension funds this has become the normal case, without even mentioning the possibility to sign up for a widow’s pension plan. The latter will not include rights for the partner.

According to Evert-Jan Slootweg, secretary of the CNV’s pensions working group, pension funds should address this problem by giving members the possibility of signing up for both pension systems at the same time.

According to Slootweg, the new system is being based on the assumption that Dutch society is totally based on both partners working full-time. However the research finds that around 70% of current partnerships are based on one partner working fulltime, with the other either part-time or totally dependent.

Jeroen Steenvoorden, director of the OPF, the Dutch Corporate Pension Funds Association, Stichting voor Ondernemingspensioenfondsen, said the issue is not at all that urgent. According to Steenvoorden, most pension funds already have implemented a very effective functional communication strategy, in which all parties involved are informing the current subscribers in full.

The possibility of changing their current widow/er pension into a higher pension plan already has been communicated. The option of changing the widow/er pension into a higher normal pension plan is given around 65.

Sometimes it is the other way around. At the retirement age an employee can change part of it’s higher old age pension for a lower old-age pension and a survivor pension.

At present, the majority of registered partners is insured during the time before the subscriber becomes 65, which is as long as the future pensioner is working. According to the OPF there is already a pro-active communication by the pension funds to address this issue.

This view was supported by ABP, the largest Dutch pension fund. Spokesman Marcel Vleugels said that in the case of their pension fund almost all people that have taken the above-mentioned option are single. Almost no married or living together couples haven taken the option.

Possible problems have been discerned, but ABP was communicating very effectively to counter possible negative results. The possibility of changing widow pension into normal but higher pension is given but without pressure or no explanation.

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