Minister should help dockers with missing pension funds

16th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The employment minister should try to find a solution for the 60,000 Rotterdam dock workers.

16 April 2008

THE NETHERLANDS - A majority of the Dutch Lower House of parliament says employment minister Piet Hein Donner should do everything possible to find a solution to the missing pension funds of 60,000 Rotterdam dock workers.

The dockers say a large portion of their money went missing after Optas, a collective pension association, sold their fund to the Aegon insurance company.

Optas received EUR 1.3 billion from the sale.

However, Aegon failed to adjust the pensions to reflect inflation even though, according to the Dutch trade union congress FNV, there was enough money to do so. The FNV accuses Aegon of using a complicated financial construction to steal the pension money.

The harbour workers are also angry with Optas because it wants to use the money it made from the sale for social and cultural projects. A change in statutes means that the dockers no longer have any say over how the money is spent.

According to the Dutch daily AD, preliminary hearings will be held on Thursday in Rotterdam to get to the bottom of the matter.

A pressure group representing both the dockers and the employers says the hearings could lead to a civil procedure against Optas and possibly against Aegon at a later date.

The FNV denies reports in the paper that it called for a worldwide boycott of Aegon at an international trade union conference in Sydney. However, a motion was carried at the conference calling for Aegon to meet with the unions to discuss the dockers' pension issue.

A spokesperson for Aegon says the company is not responsible for agreements made ten years ago between Optas and the unions as it was not party to the negotiations.

Optas has so far refused to comment, but it is considering meeting the unions.

[Radio Netherlands / Frank Scimone / Expatica]

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