Brussels, keep your hands off our pensions!

18 November 2011

Brussels, keep your hands off our pensions!

We’ve long warned about it, but from a leaked document which has fallen into the hands of our European Parliament team, it now seems clear: Brussels has it in for our pension system, the world’s best.

by Emile Roemer

Emile RoemerThe European Commission wants to prescribe the age at which we can retire and receive our pensions. I find it ridiculous that Brussels wants to leave people in the future quite uncertain as to when they can finally retire: not at 65, nor 66, nor even 67 ... No, the age will depend on average life expectancy. And what has ‘average life expectancy’ to do with those on the lowest incomes? They die almost seven years earlier and so pay the price.

Even pension agreements reached between employers and workers as part of the collective labour agreements (CAOs) which are a characteristic of industrial relations in the Netherlands are, for Brussels, far from sacred. Member state governments must open such CAOs for renegotiation if, in the eyes of the European Commission, the pensionable retirement age specified in them is too low. There is even a threat of European legislation to make early retirement impossible, and the Commission makes no exceptions for people doing heavy work.

Lastly, the leaked document confirms that Brussels sees our pensions as a financial product from which the market can make money. A single European market for private pensions: every man for himself, every woman for herself. And now we can see the plain truth: Brussels doesn’t want any kind of collective pension provision, such as our own AOW, or any kind of supplementary pension, such as that which all employees in the Netherlands must by law now receive. In this too Brussels is interested in nothing but market, market, market, and once again wants to stick its nose into matters which we can manage very well for ourselves.

It’s a good thing that we already know about these plans. The Dutch government has still got a month before the Commission officially publishes them. So my message to Prime Minister Mark Rutte is this: come on, roll up your sleeves and fight this thing. Make sure that this text is binned in its entirety. Make sure that the Netherlands keeps control of the best pension system in the world. We must not allow Brussels to ruin our unique pensions system.

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