SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Members of the FNV union have cleared the way for the government to reform the pension system after voting in favour of the new deal.
The union’s parliament backed the new rules, agreed in principle by cabinet ministers, unions and employers last year after nine years of negotiations, by a majority of 64 votes to 40.
The changes will make pension payouts more dependent on stock market performance, which has led the Socialist Party to brand the new system a ‘gamblers’ pension’. Employment minister Wouter Koolmees said in the wake of the FNV vote that there was ‘broad support for this important reform’.
‘We have worked out plans that will ensure that pension payouts are stable for those who receive them, and young people especially can profit from interest on shares.’ Pension funds will adjust the amount they invest more frequently in response to stock market fluctuations, but employees will no longer know the size of their pension before they retire.
The principle that every euro paid into the state pension counts equally is also being abandoned, to reflect the reality that investments made when employees are younger have more time to grow.
One of the major hurdles that had to be overcome during the talks was how to compensate people aged between 35 and 55 who paid into the old system at the start of their careers and would be disadvantaged by the new rules. Koolmees said these workers will be compensated but no details have been released.
Pension contributions will also be compulsory for freelancers under the new rules, although there may be an exemption for those who have sufficient resources to support themselves. Currently around 20% of freelance workers have a pension plan.
Labour (PvdA) and GroenLinks both supported the reforms, leaving the Socialists as the sole dissenting voice on the left. ‘We’re going from the best pension system in the world to a gamblers’ pension that depends on the daily fluctuations of the financial markets,’ said SP MP Bart van Kent.