Early retirement regulation on shaky ground; Employers refuse to talk, unions say

The regulation for early retirement, especially popular among people with physically taxing jobs, is at risk of not getting extended in time. Since the Cabinet collapsed, employers refuse to talk, and time is running out, trade unions FNV and CNV told De Telegraaf.

The RVU regulation allows someone to stop working three years before reaching the state pension age. The employer pays a benefit of 1,200 euros per month, and the employee can supplement their income by bringing part of their pension forward. The scheme expires in 2025. That means that employers and unions need to agree on an extension soon to get it through parliament and the Senate in time.

If the regulation lapses, about a million Netherlands residents who are now 60 or 61 years old won’t be able to take early retirement. The scheme is particularly popular among people with physically taxing jobs or who work shifts. They often do not reach state pension age with their health intact.

Trade union FNV gave the employers’ organization VNO-NCW an ultimatum on Thursday. “In good consultation, we have scheduled negotiation dates for July 11 and August 28, both of which the VNO-NCW canceled. We consider this to be a sign of collapsed negotiations. As informally reported to you, we are considering taking action on this issue,” the union said in a letter to VNO-NCW.

FNV gave the employers until September 8 to respond. “We had hoped to come up with a proposal this summer with which we could go the Cabinet together,” Piet Rietman of FNV told De Telegraaf. “Now the summer is over, but if we hurry, we can make it. Minister Carola Schouten previously indicated that she is open to it.”

Trade union CNV confirmed that the employers are dragging their feet. “They are using the fall of Cabinet to delay things in other areas too,” chairman Piet Fortuin told the newspaper. “We notice things are put on hold in anticipation of the election. Perhaps companies mainly look at the short term and at what they have to pay.”

According to FNV, about 14,000 Netherlands residents have used the RVU scheme since 2021, mostly construction workers, teachers, and police officers. The unions don’t only want to extend the scheme but expand it. The monthly payment of 1,200 euros is too low for many people. People in cleaning and nursing, in particular, often work part-time, meaning their pension accrual is lower, and they can’t afford to bring some of it forward.

The unions, therefore, want to increase the RVU benefit. “That does indeed make it more expensive for employers. But all those older employees who have to take days off to recover or fall ill also cost money,” Fortuin said.

VNO-NCW denied dodging talks with the unions. “As employers’ and employees’ organizations, we have been talking to each other for months in the Labor Foundation about which measures are needed in the theme of healthy working until retirement age,” a spokesperson said to De Telegraaf. “New talks are already planned.”

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