Trade unions vote to raise retirement age

20th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

The FNV confederation of trade unions has voted in favour of the latest accord with the government on raising the retirement age but the two largest unions, which opposed the deal, have withdrawn their backing for FNV leader Agnes Jongerius.

The debate on the pension agreement has caused a huge rift among the unions. The two unions with the most members, FNV Bondgenoten and Abvakavo, represent 60 percent of all unions, but are not represented proportionately on the confederation's executive council.

“Jongerius has ignored the standpoint of the majority,” says Henk van der Kolk, head of FNV Bondgenoten. He said the decision to withdraw support for the leader was a difficult one. “There is a deep rift, but we want to move forward into the future as one FNV.”

The commission that will be appointed to narrow those divisions should include “external people who concern themselves with management reforms,” Van der Kolk added.

Backing in parliament The plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 received parliamentary approval last Thursday night after the opposition Labour Party voted in favour of the deal. The draft legislation on a new retirement age combined with pension reforms has been a much-debated topic in the Netherlands since the government came to power last October.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party PVV – which supports the conservative VVD/Christian Democrat coalition from the parliamentary benches – refused outright to back the government on this issue.

An agreement was only reached around midnight when Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp appealed to the Labour Party to endorse the legislation. The VVD was forced to make concessions before the PvdA gave its consent.

Labour wanted guarantees that people with lower incomes who started working at an early age would still be able to retire at 65. The retirement age will be raised to 66 by 2020 and to 67 by 2025. 

Employers’ organisations have welcomed the trade union vote.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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