NETHERLANDS - Approximately 65,000 workers in university hospitals are to switch from the €237bn civil service scheme ABP to the €99.5bn healthcare pension fund PFZW for "practical reasons".

The representative organisations of employers and employees said the change would avoid much hassle for hospital workers switching employers, as there is much mobility between academic and general hospitals.

Until now, a career change often required a change of pension fund and the possible loss of pension claims, they added.

"The pension arrangement of the university hospitals will better connect to the labour market of the care sector, leading to a more level playing field with general hospitals," they said.

Both pension funds said they were pleased with the change and that it would allow them to avoid time-consuming and costly value transfers.

In the coming months, the social partners will consult rank-and-file members about the agreement in principle.

Subsequently, the players will need to consult the Dutch government for the legal facilitation of the switch, which requires permission from both pensions regulator and the Home Department.

LOAZ, the representative organisation for academic hospitals, said: "This is a breakthrough for hospital workers, as it was difficult to explain why people need to switch pension funds while staying in the same sector.

"Moreover, the new arrangements make co-operation between hospitals easier and stops competition on pensions."

Thijs Steger, spokesman at ABP, said the planned switch involved as much as €3bn worth of pension claims, but stressed that the transaction would not come at the expense of ABP's remaining participants.

He said the details of the switch had not yet been finalised and that the question of whether the entire asset management and pension administration would be transferred remained undecided.

Mariet Buddingh, spokeswoman for the federation of academic medical centres, said the pension arrangements for leaving ABP participants was also subject to further negotiations.