Friday 13 December 2019

Pension reform talks collapse as unions pull out over retirement age

Rutte answers reporters questions on Tuesday. Photo: Laurens van Putten / Hollands Hoogte

Talks between unions and employers on reforming the Dutch pension system collapsed on Tuesday night after the three big unions pulled out.

The unions say the government is not doing enough to meet their demands for a slower rise in the official retirement age – which is going up in line with life expectancy projections and is set to reach 67 by 2021.

‘I am extremely disappointed. We had €7bn to make sure the pension system was ready for the coming 50 years and a lot of progress had been made,’ prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters. Changes to the state pension system were the only issue which still had to be decided, Rutte said.

According to the Financieele Dagblad, ministers had agreed to reduce the speed of the rise in the pension age. And social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees, who had put pressure on the unions and employers to reach a deal, said that an agreement had been reached on people who do heavy physical labour.

‘I am very disappointed that we had a deal in our hands but let it slip away,’ the minister said.

Polder

Employers leader Hans de Boer told reporters that he ‘could not understand’ why the talks had collapsed. ‘I am worried about the polder,’ he said, referring to the Dutch system of reaching consensus between unions and employers before controversial legislation is drawn up.

‘We want a solution to the untenable rise in the state pension age and for the pension problems facing the self-employed,’ Hans Busker, leader of the FNV trade union federation said.

Experts believe that the Dutch pension system – a combination of a state pension (AOW) and corporate pension schemes – needs to be reformed because the aging population is putting more pressure on the current pension system and pension funds are having to pay out to more people for longer.

The rise in self-employment is also having an impact, with fewer people paying into company and sector-wide schemes.

Talks on reform began several years ago.

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