Flemish government seeks solution for excessive teaching pensions
By ‘keeping themselves at disposal’ TBS Flemish teachers can decide to leave their profession before they are due for pension. In theory this implies that the they will remain available for work, but in practice it means that they can stay at home for a number of years and receive a waiting allowance until they reach the pensionable age. Pre-primary teachers have the option to leave at age 56 and other teachers at 58. At present an early retirement window period of two to four years applies before the pensionable age of 60. In view of the government’s decision to increase the pensionable age to 62, the additional two years will double the Flemish government’s expenditure in this respect. The TBS price tag amounts to 430 million euros and as the government cannot afford this expenditure at present, Flemish Education Minister Pascal Smet SP.A was summoned to the core cabinet earlier this week to discuss the issue. “During our meeting the minister informed us about that,” says Hugo Deckers of the Socialist union ACOD. “We appreciate that. Contrary to the liberal federal minster Van Quickenborne, the minister tasked with the pensions portfolio, Smet proved his willingness to discuss the matter with the unions prior to making any decisions.” The unions are not opposed to reforms as such. “We intend to meet with the minister as a united front to debate on the matter in January”, says Deckers. “I can understand that the current regulation will become too costly, but it seems that transitional measures are also lacking.” The unions seem to understand the need for the reform. It’s possible that they intend to use the adjustments as a negotiation tool during discussions on the new collective labour agreement, which is also set to kick in next month and which calls for a higher Christmas bonus amongst others. At this stage, at least, it seems as if union sanctions are out of the question. Moreover it seems as if teachers were not all that willing to strike yesterday as the number of teachers to join the strikes was only 4,135. This is negligible if one considers the total staff complement of 177,597.