NETHERLANDS—A strike by employees of Shell Netherlands in protest at its pension proposals will bring the company’s downstream plants, including refineries and petrochemical plants, to a standstill this evening.

The unions claim that their action centres on a company plan to require its 9,000 employees and the 1,800 employees of Dutch natural gas company NAM, in which Shell is a shareholder, begin to pay a part of their pension contributions.

In addition the company intends to raise the current retirement age of 60 to 65.

Currently, Shell Netherlands pays a pension contribution of 20% of a gross salary for employees on annual salaries up to €69,510. Those earning above that figure must pay 8% of their salary as a premium, with the company paying the extra 12%.

The proposals were rejected by all the company’s trade unions and its Central Staff Council (COR) and they demanded that the management come with a new proposal before 18.00 pm today. However, the company rejected the ultimatum, the unions report.

The company has refused to comment on the industrial action beyond reiterating that it regretted that after a year of negotiations the trade unions had not accepted its proposal.

The unions claim that the change are unnecessary because of the company’s and the pension fund’s currently extremely strong financial situation.

The Shell Nederland website claims that the company’s proposals are not a money-saving exercise but are intended to lay the foundation for a sustainable financial future for the pension fund. The company has also indicated that if the changes are not implemented its overall salary costs would increase by 9% in the coming years.

Evert Jan van de Mheen, the negotiator of the Christian trade union CNV Chemie en Energie, has claimed that Shell was presenting a misleading picture.

“Shell does not talk about a retrenchment but presents the change as a savings operation,” he said. “However, it will cost the employees money. Not only will they have to work longer but they will have to pay more.”