Unions protest against retirement age rise
Trade union members took part in protests across the country against government plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 on Wednesday afternoon.The Netherlands – Thousands of members of the two main trade unions in the Netherlands Wednesday took part in protests across the country against government plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67.
The 65-minute protests which started at 11:55 and ended at 13:00 were held in Utrecht and Tilburg. They include protest meetings and extended lunch breaks.
Between 500 and 1,000 campaigners turned up to FNV chief Agnes Jongerius’ address in central Utrecht. Jongerius maintained unions are prepared to talk about a flexible pension age, so that some people could still retire at 65. The leader also said employees should be able to choose when to start drawing their state pension between the ages of 65 and 70.
Bus drivers in Tilburg hung posters against the pension increase in their buses while some union members handed out leaflets and demonstrated all day.
According to union chiefs, between 25,000 and 30,000 people took part in the protests, reports Dutch news agency ANP. The other main trade union, CNV, did not take part in the protests.
A strike by public transport workers in The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam were called off Wednesday after a court ruled that the strike is not allowed.
Unions wanted to bring public transport in the three main cities to a standstill for two hours during peak morning traffic on Wednesday in protest against government plans to raise the legal retirement age from 65 to 67.
Workers were only allowed to strike in the context of a labour dispute with their employer, said the court. In this case, their anger was directed at a political decision of the government.
Union leaders called for an urgent meeting to discuss the future of the pensions act with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende before the age rise is finalised. ANP reports the proposal for last-ditch talks was rejected by Balkenende.
The retirement age rise was first put forward as part of a package of government measures to combat the economic crisis.
However after furious union protests, the social and economic council was given the job of looking for money-saving alternatives in conjunction with the unions and employers organisations. However, discussions on alternatives broke down on the eve of the deadline.
The government is set to make final decisions on the proposal later this month, said Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner.
AFP / Radio Netherlands / Expatica