NETHERLANDS - Industry-wide pension fund schemes are unlikely to implement the new general pension vehicle API anytime soon, according to CNV union, because social partners do not want to lose their say in their running.

"At present, the unions are still at the negotiation table. Why should we give up this position," said Rene Paas, chairman of CNV, during an Aegon pensions seminar.

According to Paas, the government has indicated social partners would lose their direct say in pension arrangements once a scheme is transferred to an API. What the remaining say would be is unclear, he added.

"We do not gain from the government interfering with pensions. After all, labour conditions are primarily a matter of employers and workers," the CNV chair argued.

"Therefore, an API should at least have an accountability body and a participants' council with real powers," he added.

In Paas' opinion, there is more wrong with an API.

"The government seems to be aiming for an API to deliver only defined contribution arrangements. We want final and average salary schemes also be included in the options," he said.

The union chairman mentioned the recent conflict of port workers as an example of what can go wrong, if the social partners lose their direct say in the implementation of a pension scheme.

The pension fund for harbour workers BPVH is still disputing the ownership of the €1.3bn proceeds of the sale of insurer Optas Group to Aegon.

The assets are now in the hands of the Optas Foundation, which claims the social partners of BPVH never took up a seat on the board of the new company, nor became shareholders, when the pension fund was transformed into insurer Optas Pensioenen 10 years ago.

However, the set up of an API is particularly important to smaller company pension funds which seek benefits of scale, as well as multinational companies which are looking for cross-border synergy.

Although they are involved in the negotiations concerning pension arrangements, unions are not directly represented on the board of company schemes.

Most industry-wide pension funds are likely to be less affected by API proposals because they are mandatory schemes, they will, Leny van der Heiden, acting director of the Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds (VB) recently stated.

"We are increasingly convinced that a pension fund is the best vehicle to implement a pension scheme, because an API has less provisions for pension fund governance," Chris Driessen, pension negotiator at union FNV supported Paas.

"In our opinion, an API is mainly suited for carrying out foreign pension schemes. However, new providers such as APG and PGGM, who are now independent from their pension schemes ABP and Zorg en Welzijn, can also carry out foreign schemes without being an API," Driessen explained.

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