SWITZERLAND - The member committee of the Bernische Pensionskasse (BPK) wants the canton to guarantee all pension benefits should there be a switch from a defined benefit to a defined contribution scheme.

One year ago, a government commission had dismissed plans to change the system of the CHF8.6bn pension fund for civil servants in the Swiss province.

It noted in a statement to parliament at the time there was "no need" for a switch and suggested "changeover costs were trivialised".

However, parliament chose to go ahead with "Projekt Futura", which would also include the teacher pension fund BLVK of the canton, following the Swiss trend towards defined contribution schemes. (See earlier IPE article: Major Swiss fund set to switch to DC)

Now delegates from over 40,000 members of the BPK have unanimously passed a resolution which outlines major demands for a DB/DC switch which, if they are not being met, could lead to the fund members calling a referendum and which would then be binding on parliament.

One essential condition members are calling for is a full guarantee on already accumulated pension benefits for all members, the BPK noted.

Furthermore, it has been demanded employee and employer contributions must not be cut or increased without the other being adjusted as well.

Although the BPK is currently comfortably funded at 104.7%, the BPK delegates demanded "an appropriate reserve" must be built via government contribution before switching to DC, albeit without giving details on how much money was needed.

The fund also wants a transition provision for members close to retirement.

Finally, the members want the changeover regulation to include guarantees on interest rates and conversion rates which are used to calculated annuities at retirement.

"The members regret that parliament has not followed the government committee's recommendation to end work on 'Projekt Futura'", the resolution states.

The switch is scheduled to take place in 2012 at the earliest.

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