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Netherlands’ de Geus firm amid strike threat

NETHERLANDS - Dutch Minister of Social Affairs, Aart Jan de Geus, has shown in answers presented to the Dutch parliament that he is not willing to consider reopening talks with the social partners on the pre-pension issue.

In a reaction to question from a Green Party MP, de Geus reiterated that he would not give any new ideas to reopen the current stalemate between the government and the trade unions.

He admitted that the Council of State has given extensive criticism on his plans, but he does not want to change the cancellation of the fiscal benefits of the VUT and pre-pension.

He also has stated when asked if he would propose a transitional fiscal system, that he is not at all inclined to do this. This means he refuses to consider the advice of the Council of State in total.

In the next few days, Dutch trade unions will be preparing a major national strike program and demonstration. The Dutch government will have to cope with increased social unrest.

Meanwhile, the PVK regulator has presented a report on the pension fund sector in 2003. According to the report, the sector has recovered partly from the financial problems of 2000-2003.

After three years of negative results, the 2003 financial year had a positive result of 11 billion euros.

The PVK stated that the Dutch pension sector has seen a general change from final-salary to career-average arrangements – caused by a general decline in the financial strength of pension funds during 2000-2002.

The average coverage ratio declined from 150% in 1999 to 108% in 2002. In 2003, this has changed dramatically.

During 2003, the pension fund sector had profit on equities of 26 billion euros – compared to 2002’s 58 billion-euro shortfall.

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