Labour backs government on retirement age

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The plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 has received the backing of the opposition Labour Party PvdA, enabling the minority government to go ahead with proposed legislation. It is the second major issue – besides the move to save the euro - on which the government has received Labour's support.

The draft legislation on a new retirement age combined with pension reforms has been a much-debated affair in the Netherlands since the government came to power last October. Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party PVV – which supports the conservative VVD and Christian Democrat coalition from parliamentary benches – refused outright to back the government on this issue.

Accord at the 11th hour An accord 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 a lower income who started working at a younger age would still be able to retire at 65.

The retirement age will be raised to 66 by 2020 and to 67 by 2025. The Socialist Party, like the Freedom Party, is bitterly opposed to the proposals.

Green Left and the Democrats D66 are also opposed to the proposal on raising the retirement age – they say the plans don’t go far enough and want to implement the new laws sooner.

The decision by Labour to back the government is seen by many as a betrayal, as if they are somwhow doing the PVV's work by keeping the minority coalition in power. Last year, the anti-Islam Freedom Party had secured guarantees in a government formation package on the introduction of a burqa ban and tougher measures to combat crime in return for supporting the coalition.

Trade unions divided The FNV trade union confederation is deeply divided on the issue. Talks between the different unions broke down around dawn last Tuesday. The two largest unions, FNV Bondgenoten and Abvakabo, have derided the pension scheme as a “casino pension”. One other union representing the construction industry, FNV Bouw, is undecided and holds the balance of power.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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