Minister De Coninck to closely monitor early retirement scheme

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As from next year, due to the new federal government agreement employees will have to wait until the age 52 before they are eligible to early retirement and not 50, which is the current eligible age. The recession could however urge businesses to accelerate collective redundancy schemes in order to fall under the existing regulation, job market specialists fear. Federal Works Minister Monica De Coninck SP.A is aware of this problem and intends to take the necessary steps. Last week battery manufacturer Duracell announced its decision to cut 300 jobs and stated its intention to absorb a portion of these job cuts by making use of the early retirement scheme. This has provided De Coninck with her first test case. Says De Coninck: “We plan to investigate whether this reorganisation has anything to do with the amended regulation concerning early retirement. If this sets a precedent for similar cases, we will need more stringent regulations and take the necessary measures.” De Coninck plans to meet with Flemish Minister Philippe Muyters N-VA, tasked with the employment portfolio, and with VDAB, the Flemish Employment and Vocational Training Agency. Labour Law professor and director of the think tank Itinera, Marc De Vos, expects businesses to exploit the current regulation.  He finds it abhorrent that a portion of these reorganisation costs are paid by the government via the early retirement scheme. According to Jan Denys, job market specialist  at temping agency Randstad, much depends on the actual implementation of the coalition agreement. “If the minister leaves a gap for exceptional measures, the decision will be undermined. If a business wants to implement the early retirement regulation during reorganisation, the minister will first need to approve such a decision. She could also decide to attach conditions to make it less attractive.” Denys believes it is about time that unions and employers together with the government take their responsibility in this matter.

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