NETHERLANDS - The yearlong negotiations between Shell Nederland and the Dutch trade unions FNV Bondgenoten and CNV Chemie have reached an impasse.

The unions have refused to accept a proposal the company has made to the Central Staff Council, where unions and employee representatives discuss issues.

According to the official statement by the unions, Shell will have until October 31 to reassess the situation and change its proposal or it will face strikes at several of its Dutch plants.

The unions don’t agree with the more sober pension arrangements offered by Shell, which has redesigned its arrangements due to government legislation and developments in its own sector.

The main sticking point is the fact that Shell has changed the pension age from 60 to 65, while all employees will have to start paying part of the pension premiums.

Until now, Shell employees with a salary below €60,000 did not have to pay at all. If employees take early retirement, overall pension payments will be lower.

For all its existing employees, Shell has put into place a transitional period, in which employees will have the opportunity to take early retirement based on its total working years.

The staff council and the trade unions have refused to accept the proposals.

According to Egbert Schellenberg of FNV Bondgenoten, Shell employees are refusing to start paying for a pension arrangement, especially if it’s much worse than before.

Unions also reckon that the oil giant has enough cash generating power at present to pay the extra bills itself. If there is a strike at Shell Netherlands, this will be the first since 1979.

Shell spokesman Andre Romeyn told IPE the company was currently assessing the situation.

“The company feels that it is regrettable that the new proposal, which is still better than current arrangements of competitors, has not been accepted.

"Shell is currently considering the contents of the letter, but has said that it regrets the trade unions’ rejection of the proposal for the amended pension scheme.” He said the new arrangements would be affordable in the future.

Earlier this week unions in the UK threatened to strike over pensions at Shell’s rival BP.