AMSTERDAM, May 28 -- The working week in the Netherlands has begun with travel chaos. Public transport staff are staging a 24-hour strike which has brought almost all rail, tram, bus and ferry services to a standstill.
As a result, Amsterdam Schiphol airport has instructed airlines to cancel dozens of flights – including many to and from the UK. The airport, which is normally well served by public transport from across the Netherlands and beyond, is fearing traffic gridlock as passengers switch to taxis or Uber. It is telling the public: “Do not travel to Schiphol unless absolutely necessary. “We expect high congestion on the roads to and from the airport.” Flybe has cancelled multiple services from Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Exeter and East Midlands to the Dutch airport. Four EasyJet flights linking Gatwick with Amsterdam have been grounded, with passengers told: “Amsterdam airport authorities have asked all airlines to reduce the number of flights arriving and departing at Amsterdam Schipol airport. ”This is in order to minimise the amount of passengers travelling to and from the airport. We understand that this is a frustrating situation.”
The airline added: “In accordance with EU261 regulations, customers will not be entitled to claim for compensation as a result of the industrial action.” All Eurostar services from London St Pancras to Rotterdam and Amsterdam have been cancelled for the day. Passengers have been offered the option of travelling to Brussels, switch to an alternative day or get a full refund. Public transport workers are stopping work as part of a dispute over pension arrangements, and are demanding that retirement age remains at 66.
NS, the national train operator, said: “We regrettably advise passengers not to travel by train. “As a result of industrial action across the entire public transport sector, there are very limited or no train services throughout the country today. “Where possible we will run trains. However this will be limited and unpredictable.” The operator hopes to run a limited rail service, four times an hour, between Schiphol airport and Amsterdam Centraal station from 5am to 9pm. Reports suggest that Uber’s surge pricing is increasing fares by 2.5 times. Staff employed by some local bus operators in Utrecht and some other small cities and towns are not striking. The Dutch motoring organisation, the ANWB, has called for commuters to work from home on Tuesday or, if that is not possible, to carshare. NS is warning that rail services will be hit knock-on effects on Wednesday as a result of the industrial action.
PARIS, February 23 -- The French Yellow Vests, who for three months have protested against the tax and social policies of President Emmanuel Macron, took to the streets on Saturday for the 15th consecutive round of demonstrations.
“We’re thinking about the future of our children, and the single mothers who are currently struggling,” said 58-year-old widow Sylvie, who spoke to the AFP news agency. Sylvie was part of a group of Yellow Vests who gathered at the Chambord chateau to hold a picnic. Chambord, a popular tourist attraction in the Centre-Val de Loire region, was built by King Francis I and was chosen by Macron to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2017. In Paris, hundreds of protesters were gathered on the Champs d’Elysee at midday, according to a journalist with the AFP news agency. Two marches are expected in the French capital as well as one in the city’s “beautiful quartiers”. Nearly 4,000 people had said by Friday night that they would take part in the demonstrations, a figure that doesn't necessarily represent the number of protesters who will actually turn out. Some 5,000 “gilet jaunes” marched in the capital last Saturday, according to the authorities.
Daily newspaper Le Parisien led with an article entitled “Breathless” on its Saturday front-page with a photo of a single Yellow Vest protester occupying part of a roundabout.
The Yellow Vest movement counted some 282,000 people when the protests began on 17 November. The demonstrations were marked by their apolitical nature and lack of alignment with any trade unions, focusing on the increase in fuel prices and diminishing purchasing power. The movement represented one of the worse crises to hit Macron’s term of office since he came to power in 2017. However, there were no more than 41,000 people involved in protests last Saturday, according to official statistics that the Yellow Vest movement itself contests. “A movement which fades,” said Le Parisien, one of the only French dailies to consecrate a significant part of its coverage to Yellow Vest protests.
Fears over violence
Violent clashes that have accompanied each demonstration as well as the inability of the movement to unite around one common cause or leader have led to a diminishing turnout for the regular protests. French people largely support the protest movement, although more than half the population believes that it should end, according to a survey by Ifop published by Le Journal du Dimanche on 17 February. After three months of protests, the authorities have increasingly tried to take control of the situation. The government rushed through some 10 billion euros of concessions including tax cuts and an increase in the minimum wage.
Macron has also launched his “big debate” initiative with the aim of giving angry Yellow Vests the opportunity to express their frustration. Eleven people have been killed since the start of the demonstrations, most of those have been accidents in the vicinity of barricades erected by the Yellow Vests. Protesters frequently point the finger at “police violence” as the reason behind the nearly 2,000 people injured during the demonstrations. More than 200 reports of abuse carried out by security forces have been made to the internal police watchdog.
EDINBURGH, February 15 -- AEGON UK boss Adrian Grace has said the uncertainty about Brexit has not made the pensions and investments group less likely to invest in the country, where it has good growth prospects.
Speaking after the business he leads posted a 10 per cent increase in annual underlying earnings, to €128 million (£113m), from €116m, Mr Grace said the Dutch group that owns it remains very committed to the UK. With around 1,200 employees in Edinburgh, Aegon is a major financial services sector player in Scotland. A further 800 employees are transferring to Atos in Edinburgh under an out-sourcing deal agreed in November. Expressing confidence that directors in Holland would support expansion moves in the UK, Mr Grace said: “I’ve never been told they would not make more money available in the UK, quite the reverse. They are encouraging me to build and diversify.” He said Aegon may consider returning to the acquisition trail in the second half of the current year as it moves to draw a line under the problems that followed the bumper takeover of Cofunds in 2016. The £140m deal helped make Aegon UK a major player in the platform market to provide web-based facilities which people can use to help manage their savings for retirement. The company was left facing expensive complications after migrating 400,000 Cofunds retail customers on to its systems over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
In August Mr Grace said Aegon UK had been required to put more than 200 people on to clearing backlogs and dealing with service issues. Aegon UK incurred around £30m integration costs in the second half, including undisclosed amounts of compensation paid to customers of Cofunds and advisers. However, annual cost savings following the integration of Cofunds are expected to reach £60m. Mr Grace said yesterday: “Between July and December significant strides were made and resource mobilised to address service issues. By the end of the year core operational services had returned to target levels.” He said the fact the UK business pays regular dividends to the Dutch parent showed its investment in the country was paying off.
The deal agreed with Atos was the final piece in the jigsaw in terms of developing a business model fit for the twenty first century. Atos will take over administration of traditional-style policies in the UK for Aegon, which bought Scottish Equitable in 1994. Mr Grace noted the jobs of the 800 employees affected have been guaranteed for a year under the deal. The arrangement leaves Aegon UK, which also employs around 1,000 in England, to focus resources on growing in the platform market. Mr Grace said Aegon’s enthusiasm for the UK has increased in recent years, noting: “Nine or ten years ago I think there were questions about Aegon’s commitment to the UK.” Mr Grace said Aegon had had a small market share and a very capital-intensive business model with no real strategic outlook on where it was going. Today it has a 25% market share of the platform market and a clear strategy. Demand for platform services is growing as people take more responsibility for saving for retirement.
Mr Grace said Aegon UK’s focus in the first half will be on completing the integration of Cofunds and a business acquired from BlackRock in 2016.
In Aegon group’s results announcement chief executive Alex Wynaendts said he was pleased service levels in the UK platform business had returned to target levels. The group said lower Retirement Plans earnings in the US had more than offset business growth and higher margins in Europe, and cost savings. Annual earnings fell 3% to €2.07bn. Mr Grace succeeded Otto Thoresen as chief executive of Aegon UK in 2011 as the company completed an overhaul that led to the loss of around 600 jobs in Edinburgh. He joined Aegon UK as business development director in 2009 after holding senior banking and insurance roles at HBOS and Barclays.
JERUZALEM, January 9 -- A large Dutch pensions group has reversed its blacklisting of Israeli banks from 2014.
PGGM had divested from all five leading Israeli banks over “ethical concerns” pertaining to their presence or actions in the West Bank, disputed territory where Palestinians are the majority but where hundreds of thousands of Israelis also live. The decision to blacklist was seen as a major victory for advocates of attempts to boycott Israel.
ROTTERDAM, DECEMBER 13 -- The action lasts exactly 66 minutes on Thursday, the current AOW age. It is unique that the police unions and FNV Havens work together.
"The police federations and FNV Havens have been working in their own way for some time to urge politicians to freeze or reverse the increase of the retirement age", says Niek Stam of FNV Haven. "It is only logical that we combine our strengths once."
It's been the kick-off of a long protest that will spread out over the Netherlands the coming months.
THE HAGUE, November 29 -- The Dutch government must slow down the rate at which it plans to increase the state pension age, politicians have argued.
During a debate in parliament yesterday about the collapse of the negotiations around a new pensions agreement, all political parties concluded that the plan to raise the official retirement age in line with longevity from 2022 was not tenable. Under the current arrangements, the retirement age for the Netherlands’ state pension – the AOW – is to rise from 65 in 2017 to 67 and three months in 2022. It will subsequently increase by one year for every year of additional improvement in life expectancy.
However, linking the AOW age to life expectancy angered trade unions, which argued that this would be too fast for workers in hard physical jobs. They have lobbied to freeze the AOW age at 66. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, while acknowledging the overwhelming demand from political parties, contended that only a new government could alter the disputed policy.
“It would be too expensive and would cause a large shift on the budget that could only be agreed during the formation of a new government,” he said. Rutte suggested that, during the recent negotiations, the cabinet had offered what unions and employers had drawn up in a draft agreement that leaked to the press in May.
The draft agreement at the time indicated that the social partners had opted for collective pension arrangements, offering fewer guarantees than the current DB plans but with more scope for indexation. However, it did not mention the unions’ demands related to AOW, the discount rate for liabilities, or pensions for self-employed workers.
Academics back up union concerns
Separately from the political debate, several experts on ageing have concluded that a solution must be found for workers in physically demanding jobs, as they were likely to experience fewer years of healthy retirement than those with other kinds of jobs. At a meeting of pensions think-tank Netspar in Rotterdam, academics presented surveys showing that the difference in life expectancy between lower and higher educated workers was increasing.
“The question is whether the current rise of the state pension age is fair in this context,” said Dorly Deeg, professor of epidemiology and ageing at VUmc in Amsterdam. She added that an increasing number of people aged between 65 and 75 were suffering from at least two chronic illnesses. “The uniform rise of the AOW age is at odds with the consistent difference of life expectancy and healthy longevity between the lower and higher educated,” said Wilma Nusselder, senior researcher at Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre.
Several presentations highlighted that less educated people not only faced a lower life expectancy, but also usually lacked the financial means to retire earlier. Nusselder noted that the difference between lower and higher educated workers had also been observed in other countries. Joop de Beer, researcher at the Dutch Demographic Institute (Nidi), suggested that the AOW age should rise by one month per year in order to prevent a continuing discussion on the issue.
Politicians demand more information
During the parliamentary debate, the Christian Democrats (CDA), the opposition left-wing green party GroenLinks, labour party PvdA and religious right-wing party SGP collectively filed a motion calling for the government to assess how healthy life expectancy was developing. They also asked for alternative options for linking retirement and life expectancy, as well as how to finance them. Prime minister Rutte said that discussions were not dead, but didn’t make clear how the process of pensions reform should be continued.
Wouter Koolmees, minister for social affairs, said the government would assess the situation and he would inform parliament of further developments in January. Without agreement between the social partners on reform, cuts to pension payments remain possible for some schemes from 2020.
Both the party for the elderly, 50Plus, and GroenLinks announced that they would table bill to allow for a longer recovery period for pension funds, to provide the social partners additional leeway for drawing up a new reform plan.
THE HAGUE, November 21 -- Talks between unions and employers on reforming the Dutch pension system collapsed on Tuesday night after the three big unions pulled out.
The unions say the government is not doing enough to meet their demands for a slower rise in the official retirement age – which is going up in line with life expectancy projections and is set to reach 67 by 2021. ‘I am extremely disappointed. We had €7bn to make sure the pension system was ready for the coming 50 years and a lot of progress had been made,’ prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters. Changes to the state pension system were the only issue which still had to be decided, Rutte said. According to the Financieele Dagblad, ministers had agreed to reduce the speed of the rise in the pension age. And social affairs minister
Wouter Koolmees, who had put pressure on the unions and employers to reach a deal, said that an agreement had been reached on people who do heavy physical labour. ‘I am very disappointed that we had a deal in our hands but let it slip away,’ the minister said. Polder Employers leader Hans de Boer told reporters that he ‘could not understand’ why the talks had collapsed. ‘I am worried about the polder,’ he said, referring to the Dutch system of reaching consensus between unions and employers before controversial legislation is drawn up. ‘We want a solution to the untenable rise in the state pension age and for the pension problems facing the self-employed,’ Hans Busker, leader of the FNV trade union federation said. Experts believe that the Dutch pension system – a combination of a state pension (AOW) and corporate pension schemes – needs to be reformed because the aging population is putting more pressure on the current pension system and pension funds are having to pay out to more people for longer. The rise in self-employment is also having an impact, with fewer people paying into company and sector-wide schemes. Talks on reform began several years ago.
DEN HAAG, November 16 -- Na jaren onderhandelen, en een marathonsessie vannacht, is er nog altijd geen akkoord bereikt over een nieuw pensioenstelsel. Maandag wordt er verder gepraat over de verschillende struikelblokken.
AOW staat voor Algemene Ouderdomswet, die het basispensioen regelt. Lang stond de pensioenleeftijd op 65 jaar maar die gaat, in stappen, verhoogd worden naar 67 jaar en drie maanden omdat onze levensverwachting is toegenomen.
In eerste instantie zou die AOW-leeftijdsverhoging in 2021 in moeten gaan. Maar het kabinet zou bereid zijn om die leeftijdsverhoging pas te laten ingaan in 2025, al gaat dat wel veel geld kosten.
Vanaf 2025 zou de AOW-leeftijd dan gekoppeld worden aan de levensverwachting, wat betekent: hoe ouder we met z'n allen worden, des te langer we moeten doorwerken. Op de site van de Sociale Verzekeringsbank kun je heel simpel zien wat je AOW-leeftijd is.
De vakbonden willen deze AOW-leeftijd bevriezen op de huidige 66 jaar. In augustus zei FNV al: geen bevriezing, dan geen pensioenakkoord. Een 65-jarige zal in 2024 driekwart langer leven dan nu, zo berekende het CBS onlangs.
Als pensioenfondsen niet genoeg geld in kas hebben, dan moet het bedrag wat ze uitkeren omlaag. Om ervoor te zorgen dat dit niet gebeurt, moeten die fondsen dus voldoende geld in kas hebben.
Om te bepalen hoeveel geld ze in 2018 in kas moeten hebben om ook in 2048 pensioenen te kunnen uitkeren, wordt gewerkt met de risicovrije rekenrente. Vakbond FNV wil dat deze rente wordt verhoogd. Dan hoeft er minder in kas gehouden te worden en kunnen de pensioenen omhoog.
Maar er bestaat ook een angst dat als de pensioenen omhoog gaan, er misschien niet genoeg overblijft voor jongeren. Bovendien ligt een nieuwe economische crisis altijd op de loer en kunnen pensioenfondsen, die beleggen, dan weer flink verliezen op de beurs.
De partijen komen hier maar niet uit. Er komen steeds meer zzp'ers in Nederland en in toenemende mate kunnen zij op latere leeftijd lastig rondkomen. Een kwart van de zzp’ers heeft niets geregeld voor na de pensioendatum. De vakbonden wil dat bedrijven die zzp'ers inhuren pensioenpremie betalen voor deze opdrachtnemers. Werkgevers zijn tegen. Zzp'er zitten zelf helemaal niet te wachten op een verplicht pensioen.