Unions get free hand on pension proposals

The cabinet has not put any conditions on union and employer efforts to come up with alternatives to a two-year increase in the state pension age, Nos tv reports on Friday.

Ministers want to increase the official retirement age from 65 to 67 as part of a package of measures to reduce the budget deficit. But they have agreed to give the social and economic policy advisory body SER, which has employer, union and lay members, five months to come up with another way of saving money.
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende told MPs during Thursday’s marathon debate that the SER would be given a free hand. But he pointed out that ministers had opted to increase the pension age because it would boost the number of people in work, cut the budget deficit and help corporate pension funds restore their assets following the fall in share prices.
And Pieter van Geel, leader of the Christian Democrats in parliament, said suggestions that mortgage tax relief be reduced would be rejected.
FNV trade union leader Agnes Jongerius told MPs during a special hearing on Thursday she was convinced that the pension age increase would not go ahead.
She also said she had not voted in favour of a pay or social security benefit freeze. The unions were consulted about the government’s proposals to beat the recession as part of efforts to build wide acceptance for the plans.
Residency rules
Nevertheless, according to Trouw a majority of MPs do support a gradual increase in the retirement age to 67, with the two Liberal parties and the left wing greens of GroenLinks siding with the government. But GroenLinks wants to couple the increase to a reduction in the current 50-year residency requirement to qualify for a full state pension.
Some 17% of pensioners in the Netherlands cannot claim a full pension because they have not lived in the country since the age of 15.
The Netherlands is the only northern European country preparing to increase the pension age to 67 to help cope with the financial crisis, reports the Volkskrant.
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Confusion over pension age increase
Opposition furious at ‘undemocratic’ plan
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