NETHERLANDS – Peace has not yet returned to the SPOA, the beleaguered €1.2bn pension fund for public pharmacists in the Netherlands.
At its recent annual general meeting, participants appointed a new board for the occupational pension association (BPOA) – responsible for the pension plan – consisting entirely of employer representatives.
"As a result," said Harry Stulemeijer, spokesman for the CAP committee for pharmacists and a retired SPOA participant, "the more than 2,000 employed participants lack a say in pension arrangements and are fully dependent on the employers, who haven't raised their contributions for years."
In his opinion, the employers' "power grab" is an example of poor governance.
He said the participants, rather than the trade associations, should decide on their pension arrangements.
"It is a culture of exclusion and the lack of communication," he said.
The new BPOA board was appointed after the previous board resigned following a conflict with rank-and-file members over the question of who should conduct an investigation into the scheme's financial position and the functioning of its board.
One employed pharmacist, on the condition of anonymity, said: "Our pension assets are dealt with in a very undemocratic way. The employers can now decide about the pensions of their workers. In the past, the occupational society agreed to proposals from the pension fund, without consulting its members."
But Huub Derksema, chairman of the largest trade association Napco, argued that the election process of the BPOA board had been entirely legal.
"The employed colleagues simply haven't voted," he said.
According to Derksema, the plan is to increase the current three-member board by two, including a representative for employed participants.
"We also want to find a solution for the diverging interests of pharmacists/employers and employed colleagues," he said.
The pension fund for pharmacists has 2,745 active participants, 960 deferred members and 1,130 pensioners.
In 2012, it returned 11.6% on investments.
Its coverage ratio was 97.1% as of the end of May.
BPOA's new chairman Paul van Bakel, responding through his spokesman Rob Simon, said the occupational pensions association looks after the interests of "all participants", adding that the position of employed pharmacists had BPOA's "special interest".