European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Belgium

16 November 2017

Belgium: pension plans revealed

The government has initiated a process of pension reform that leads to several negative effects for workers. The trade unions are mobilising against the proposals. However, the parliamentarian majority is backing the reform.

Early October the public service union ACOD/CGSP organised a day of action of against the policies of the Federal Government that led to the worst morning rush hour congestion so far in 2017 on the country’s roads. The union protested during this so-called ‘Reaction Day’ against measures taken in a number of areas of policy, including pensions and investment in public services. But not only in the public sector the pensions will come under pressure, as a consequence of the ‘summer deal’ that the acting coalition concluded in 2017. The pension reform that was launched by the government will have a negative impact on several pension rights, although the government is denying the negative effects.

A first reform was already announced in the spring, after long debates about the possible increase of the statutory pension age. Part of that reform was the increase of the pension age (to the age of 67 years) and a new calculation of the pensions for workers with a long working career. The trade unions organised joint action against the proposal and went even to the constitutional court, to prevent what they called the implementation of a proposal with several unconstitutional parts and aspects.

A second stage was concluded among the coalition partners in the summer of 2017. The parliamentarian committee for social affairs discussed the pension measures of the second stage on 24 October 2017. The measures will have an impact on workers that started as youngsters on the labour market, on workers in arduous jobs and those that have already retired earlier. Moreover, the possibility to retire earlier will be further discouraged. For already retired workers, the consequence can be that the period of early retirement is no longer taken into account in the calculation of the final pension, leading to a lowering of their pension (up to 150 euro monthly). This is especially bitter for people that had the opportunity to retire earlier during the recent crisis and could thus escape from unemployment.

Trade union confederation ABVV/FGTB has formulated basic demands that should lead to a decent and justifiable pension for everybody. Key demands are a minimum pension of at least 1500 euro with pensions mounting up to 75% of the last earned wage. The financing should come from the taxation of capital income earnings.

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