Chemical giant Wacker-Chemie is actively promoting the Riester deferred compensation pension plan throughout its workforce in Germany, based on the joint agreement for the chemical industry.
“We have developed a company strategy going to all our plants and organising an ‘Alterversorgungstag’, a pensions day,” says Frederich Leonhardt, chairman of the board of the group’s Pensionkasse in Munich.
“We asked employees to bring their spouses along to the plant, as we see this as a matter for family discussion. In some meetings, it was standing room only,” he says.
He expects the plan to be of interest to around 9,000 to 10,000 of the 15,000 German workforce. “The reaction so far has been very positive, as people are uncertain what to do.”
The company is opening up a special section within its long established Pensionskasse to offer the Riester plan, rather than join the new Pensionsfond, set up jointly by the unions and employers in the chemical industry. The other major chemical groups are likely to take the same approach.
A “marketing-style” campaign, with posters, brochures, hotlines and perhaps even giveaways, says Leonhardt. The plan has been branded ‘PK ExtraPlus’.
“Employees investing through the Wacker plan obtain an employer contribution as well as the state subsidy,” he points out. “It is more efficient to invest through our company plan, than an insurance company product.”
The aim is to finish the exercise of informing employees by the end of July. “Then people can think about what they want to do during their summer holidays and give us their decision by the end of September.”
That gives the company time to set up the systems to obtain the subsidy from the state on behalf of the members, when the scheme starts in January 2003.
Leonhardt says that there was not much to change with the existing Pensionskasse to make it ready for this new departure. “We just had to reduce the joining age from 20 to 18, as all employees are eligible to join the plan.”