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Trade Unions and Pension Issues 

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France: Transport Strikes Against Sarkozy's Pension Changes Snowball (November 8, 2007)
The strike against the French government’s pension changes will continue next week. Unions defending companies RATP and Sud RATP, which runs the Metro underground train system and buses in the French capital, are calling for a general strike. Last month, strikes paralyzed the country but Nicolas Sarkozy affirmed: ‘there will be strikes, protests, but I will stand firm.’ 

Trade Unions: UK: Large UK Firms Anger Union Over Pensions (September 13, 2007)
UK unions are criticizing plans of airport operators, BAA and Royal Mail, to change the pension schemes for new employees. BAA wants to close its final-salary scheme in favor of a “defined contribution, money-purchase scheme,” while Royal Mail is considering a “reduction in benefits, increased employee contributions and later retirement age.” Unions vehemently oppose these changes, saying it is “unacceptable that new entrants will be on a less superior pension to other staff.” 

Trade Unions: Tanzania: The Evolution of Security Systems in Tanzania (May 25, 2007)
The Pensioners Union of Tanzania has called on the government to increase pensions for the elderly. The union says that several economic and social factors have led to the erosion of pension rates, which they claim are too low and do not meet the minimum standards. A study released by the union highlights the history of pensioners in Tanzania and offers suggestions for improvement.

Trade Unions: Netherlands: Pensions Seek More Clout in Unions’ Link Up (May 15, 2007)
 The largest union, FNV, and the union for the elderly, ANBO, are considering building closer ties to empower pensioners. In fact, the complementary organizations should develop common policies. As FNV governor Leo Hartveld suggested, “a link up is a golden opportunity for the solidarity between young and older workers” as he believes “an extended service could keep elderly members longer with our organization.”
Australia: Howard Urges Delayed Retirement (April 4, 2007)
The Australian Prime Minister asked people to work at least an extra 10 years for “the good of the nation.” Trade unions retorted that healthy options should be proposed to the older workers in order to keep them in the labor force: as much as the “right to request part-time work,” they should have the “right to flexible hours of work.” To encourage more people to work longer, unions have also claimed that the government should act against the companies who are reluctant to give jobs to people over 50 years of age.

South Korea: Government, Employees Discuss Pension Reform (January 26, 2007)
South Korea intends to make drastic changes in the public pension system. The government has proposed a “pay more, receive less” plan, namely that civil servants will have to face a 3 percentage point increase in pension contributions, while their overall benefits will be reduced by roughly half. The government has also rejected negotiations with public workers' unions. This crisis over public pensions reveals the government’s uneasiness about negotiating with unions of public service workers. South Korea had to permit legalization of trade unions and collective bargaining as a condition for entering the World Trade Organization.

Switzerland: Swiss Government Rejects Move to Earlier Retirement (January 10, 2007)
A Swiss trade union proposed that the government lower the retirement age to 62 for middle-class workers (with a minimum income condition). The government rejected the idea for demographic-related reasons: all developed countries are currently facing a lack of workers to support pensioners. Yet the union’s idea was just to “dignify the exit from the labour market,” in order to avoid senior workers being fired because of their decreasing abilities. The government chose between economic reasons (not estimated very highly) and its citizens’ dignity.

UK: Dates Set for ITN Pension Strike (January 9, 2007)
Trade unions called for a two day strike in order to defend the pension benefits in ITN (Independent Television News in the United Kingdom). ITN’s managers decided to put an end to the final-salary pension scheme, and stopped talks with the unions. Employees are willing to continue the negotiations: they would accept reductions in the employers’ contributions, though in return the company should make concessions on the retirement age and capped pensions. 

Trade Unions: UK: Launch of National Pensions Plan Fails to Silence Critics (December 13, 2006)
The new British pension plan has satisfied the trade unions but worries the pensions experts. The unions felt pleased that employees and employers will contribute together to a common compulsory fund to increase retirement savings of low-paid workers. However financial institutions fear a “leveling-down,” and that the workers wouldn’t be encouraged to save more. Because the plans lacks state financial regulation, there’s lots of room for bilking and cheating working class people. Many could be worse off than before.

Trade Unions: UK: Elderly Urge MPs to Do 'Decent Thing' Over Pensions (October 25, 2006)
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) organized signings of a petition to lobby the MPs to accelerate the debate on pensions in Great Britain. They ask for the restoration of the link between earnings and pensions, which was given up by the Conservatives. They also demand an increase in the basic state pension. MPs defended themselves saying that that they have already done a lot for poor pensioners, such as the Pension Credit in 1997.

Algeria: Retirees Moved Into the Streets (October 12, 2006)
(Article in French)
Algerian retirees demonstrated in several towns alongside the National Federation of Retired Workers who were demanding the increased pensions promised last May. Along with the decline in their purchasing power, they complain about medical reimbursement agencies that supervise them as if they were thieves. If the Labor Minister doesn’t act in their favor, retirees will plan other actions to persuade the government to meet the demands of these marginalized citizens.

France: Increase of Low Agricultural Pensions: Improvements by 2007 (October 11, 2006)
(Article in French)

The government changed conditions for contributing to the agricultural pension system, increasing pensions of people who did not have a complete career, especially farmers’ wives. Sometimes wives don’t even earn the basic income paid in old age. Agricultural trade unions reminded the government of its commitment to farmers who worked and paid contributions during their work life. The 2003 reform included a plan for them to have pensions at least equal to 85% of the minimum wage in France.

Mali: Pension Fund of Mali: Current Ambitious Reforms (October 4, 2006)
(Article in French)
The Pension Fund of Mali (CRM) will be completely restructured: staff changes, better status of the retired, an administrative process making it easier to attain managerial autonomy. The Administrative Council gathered recently with the Secretary of Social Development, Solidarity and Older People and with the trade unions. This meeting emphasized the need to adopt a new pension code that will be an improvement over the 1961 CRM system.

UK: Labour Leaders in Pensions Defeat (September 26, 2006)
Trade unions protested against the government plans to change UK pension policy. They demanded restoration of pensions to workers who lost their pensions when their firms went bust. But this project might be delayed to 2012. Next, they have fought against the increase in the retirement age at 68. The GMB union opposed raising the retirement age when there are great differences in longevity within parts of the UK. Rather, the union argued, that the government should address health inequalities and consequently reduce the longevity inequalities in the various regions before raising the retirement age.

UK: Transport Unions Warn Over Pensions Row (September 19, 2006)
Currently, union employees often have disability pensions if the employer deems them unfit to do their job. However, proposed pension changes could mean that anyone capable of earning an income, regardless of how small, would no longer qualify for or retain a disability pension. Union leaders have urged employers to provide assurance that they will not support these proposed changes. Otherwise, union members from the TUBE and other transport workers will resist strongly. 

Trade Unions Defend the Rights of the Future Pensioners (September 16, 2006)
(Article in Russian)
Every year the Pension Fund of Russian Federation recieves more that 700,000 complaints against employers who have not paid social security and pension taxes. The chairman of the Russian Federation of the Independent Trade Unions explains in the article what negative consequences this causes for pensioners.

UK: Steelman Pension Poser for Blair (September 12, 2006)

The 2002 closing of UK- based Allied Steel and Wire caused 1,000 employees to lose their pensions.  Amongst these individuals, Peter Hughes, 51, worked as a steelworker for 30 years.   Mr. Hughes expected to retire with a pension of £11,000 ($21,000) per year but will receive less than £2,000 (3,800) now. At a recent TUC congress, Hughes asked the prime minister why he could not receive help despite his long service. According to a Community Union spokesman, Mr. Blair replied that the government had put money into the financial assistance scheme but could not help everyone. Hughes later stated, "As far as we're concerned that's not good enough and we hope to raise it at the Labour conference as well as 
continuing to battle through the European Court of Justice."

Germany: German Unions Want Mandatory Corporate Pension (April 20, 2006)

Germans unions are pushing for a reform that will make corporate pensions mandatory. Many companies, especially the small ones, do not offer their employees a pension plan or any benefits. Unions want government action to prevent retirees from falling into poverty in old age. 

UK: Unions May Win New Powers Over Work Pensions (March 6, 2006)
The UK Department of Trade and Industry may put pensions in the collective bargaining category along with the current subjects of pay, hours, and holidays that are already included. This arrangement would allow employers and unions to discuss and debate over their interests and provide their inputs. Many employers have already voiced their opposition to this new plan. On the flip side, unions are pressing for this change so that they can have a voice in their members’ pensions (deferred wages) and not leave it to the boss.

UK: UK Facing Local Government Pensions Strike (February 21, 2006)
Around the world, local governments are looking at their current pension systems and considering taking action to reduce benefits. Worried unions in the UK are set to strike against this development. Discussions focus on the unequal contributions between the employee staff contributions and the employer council tax which is more than double the 6% that employees pay. At the moment, the government has expressed its disappointment at the union that talks of strike action when the pension discussion is not over yet. Yet workers fear the worst. There is still much to discuss. A revised pension scheme is expected by October of 2007.

France: National Bank Employees May Strike to Protect Their Pensions (December 2, 2005)
(Article in French)
The seven French national trade unions are calling on the 140 000 employees of the French Central Bank to strike. This is their first common call since 1968. Trade unions want to maintain the current specific pension plan of the Bank built on the basis of the 1805 bank’s statute. The Bank’s administration wants to merge with the general French pension system. 

France: Disability Leave of Unofficial Retirement? (December 1, 2005)
(Article in French)

In France, older workers in strenuous jobs and their employers cooperate to allow the workers to leave the workforce due to a “disability” rather than wait until early or full retirement age. The worker receives some state compensation until reaching the official pensionable age.  This avenue is less costly on the employer than early retirement. Employees desiring to quit strenuous jobs and managers who want to avoid extra costs agree that this is common practice. Now, trade unions and managers have entered discussions to find some legal, official solutions to older workers leaving strenuous jobs.

UK: Unions Warn Over Pensions Plan (November 27, 2005)
Anticipating the release of a major report on pensions in the UK, government and civil service trade union officials are in heated discussions about the retirement age. British experts speculate that the report will call for a retirement age increase to 67. However, in October, civil service trade unions managed to secure an agreement with the government to continue to retire at 60. Government officials deny that the previously negotiated terms will be nullified if there is a decision to move the national retirement age to 67. Critics of the civil service deal are concerned that if two distinct retirement ages exist in the UK, a two-tiered workforce will be created. Will retirees be better off exiting the workforce earlier or is it better for older persons to keep active by remaining in the workforce? 

UK: Pension Age Should Rise to 67 (November 17, 2005)
The United Kingdom will soon implement a new pension law reform that will most likely take effect in 2020. It will affect everyone under the age of 50.  The UK plans to increase the basic pension payment weekly from the current 80 pounds to 109 pounds but also employees may not retire till the age of 67 compared to the current age of 65. Along with this revision to the pension scheme, they are also creating a National Savings Plan so that retirees will not have to totally rely on their pensions.  The British public has mixed reactions to the plan. Some believe that this change will encourage people to start saving.  Other feel that this new scheme discriminates against the poor since they tend to have shorter life expectancies.

Belgium: Political Leader Vande Lanotte Reproaches Belgian Trade Unions (October 31, 2005)
(Article in French)
Social tensions are running high between the Belgium government and unions. Mr. Vande Lanotte, a Flemish left-wing political leader, has accused trade unions of lying about the real content of the federal government’s program, called “the Intergenerational Pact.” He says “there are many interesting and progressive chapters” in the Pact that the unions have chosen to ignore as they focus their ire on prepensions.
Other articles in French available about this topic: 1 / 2 / 3

UK: UK May Face €5.9bn ECJ Pension Payout (October 27, 2005)
Trade unions in the UK accuse the British government of neglect in fulfilling its obligations to thousands of workers who lost their pensions due to insolvency. Union activists have taken their case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), claiming the British government violated Article 8 of the European Insolvency Directive. Article 8 requires nations to ensure pensions are fully funded at all times. If ECJ rules in favor of the union and its members, the British government will need to pay out all pensions owed immediately out of the Treasury. The British government established the Pension Protection Fund in 2004. But for workers who lost their jobs and pension benefits in years’ prior, the PPF is too little, too late. 

UK: Council Staff To Protest Over Pensions (October 27, 2005) 
Local government workers in the UK feel they have been short changed in the pension negotiation process. Union officials, workers and activists call upon the government to extend the same public sector pension and retirement rights offered to civil service workers to local government employees. The Local Government Association (LGA) plans to raise the retirement age to 65 and eliminate the “85-year-rule” that enables local government workers to retire at 55 if their cumulative service and age add up to 85 years. Two million workers stand to be affected by the LGA proposal, leaving many current and future retirees little choice but to work for years well beyond their anticipated retirement age. 

Venezuela: Venezuela's CANTV Posts Loss on Pensions Contingency (October 27, 2005)

CANTV, a telecommunications company in Venezuela, recorded losses due to increased pension obligations. Retirees filed suit in the Supreme Court, claiming the company owed $326 million in outstanding pension payments. The government ruled in favor of retirees and required CANTV to pay out $333 million to those owed. CANTV may be struggling financially for the time being due to pension costs. But, the company’s revenues increased by 11% while the interests of retirees were protected. 

The Netherlands: Shell Faces Strike Over Pension Scheme (October 27, 2005)

Dutch trade unions square off with oil giant Shell over the fate of pension and retirement requirements. Trade union representatives say current workers age 45-50 will have to work a year and a half longer if Shell decides to increase the retirement age to 65 and require employees to pay into their retirement fund. Currently, Shell pays pension premiums for employees who make under 60,000 euros per year. The Netherlands is one of many EU nations debating the future of retirees. It is unclear if Shell will change their pension rules or if the trade unions will be able to protect the interests of current and future retirees. 

Belgium: Pension Reform Gets Belgians into the Streets (October 27, 2005)
(Article in French)
For the second time in twelve months, a general strike in the streets of Brussels paralyzed Belgium last Friday, October 28. Trade Unions are opposed to the proposal of the Liberal-Socialist coalition Verhofstadt Government to move the prepension age from 58 to 60  years.  The Prime Minister said there would be no renegotiation. The Trade Unions say they are ready to continue their protest.
Other articles in French available about this topic: 1 / 2 / 3

UK: A Row About The Pennies (October 20, 2005)
British officials continue to debate the public sector pension structure. Experts estimate that public sector pensions are grossly under funded, and, without proper changes could cost the government more over time. Currently, these pensions account for 1.5% of the UK GDP. That number could rise to 2.4% over the next three decades. Some critics argue that public sector pensions provide more benefits than their private sector counterparts. Public sector retirees want to protect a pension they deserve. There seems to be no end in sight to the British pension controversy in both the public and private sector. 

Belgium: “Prepensions”: Hand-to-hand Combat to Come (October 19, 2005)
(Article in French)
The Belgian Trade Unions Common Assembly refused to support the Federal Government’s legislation, led by Prime Minister Verhofstadt , entitled the “Intergenerational Pact.” The legislation is accused of being “too negative.” Unions oppose efforts to change the eligibility for a “prepension” from 55 years to 58 years in 2010. The “prepension,” is a Belgian system created in 1975 to give a complementary early pension to unemployed seniors who are near retirement age and may face great difficulties in getting a new job. The Unions’ common position should allow them to coordinate strikes and other actions in the next few days. Depending on the strength of these actions, the Unions will decide whether to oppose the Intergenerational Pact project or not. The Prime Minister claims that the Unions won’t prevent the government from realizing its project. 

Belgium: Unions Reject Pension Pact,Threaten National Strike (October 18, 2005)
Belgian labor unions are fighting to keep their early retirement age at 58 years. Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt proposed an increase in the retirement age to 60, as a tactic to reduce social security costs and keep older workers active longer. Labor unions may resort to a strike if an agreement on retirement age is not met. 

UK: Pensions Deal Averts Mass Strike (October 18, 2005) 
Civil service union leaders in the UK claimed victory to protect pension rights for current and future retirees. The public sector workers’ union and the government agreed to continue to allow individuals to retire at 60 if they choose to do so. New hire retirement age is set at 65, but the negotiated deal allows flexibility to retire at 60. Older workers now have the option to stay active longer if they want to stay on their job. Retirees will also retain their right to defined benefit pension plans, an important source of economic security for British seniors. 

Belgium: Grumbles About Senior’s Employment (October 17, 2005)
(Article in French)
The public transport branch of the Belgian trade union CSPP is worried about the Belgian federal government’s intent to increase the years of work before pensioning. The current situation allows older people of 55 years to retire whereas changes could increase it to 58 years.  Moreover, CSPP says, it is also a matter of jobs and that some companies scarcely have jobs for young people and cannot afford to keep or to hire people aged over age 55. They ask their national leaders to reject the government proposal. This issue will start a serous debate about seniors’ employment in Belgium.

Mexico: Negotiations Drag As Strike Threatened (October 14, 2005) 
In Mexico, the labor union representing health care workers is waging a fight to protect retirement benefits for its 400,000 members. Representatives of the Social Security Medical Institute (IMSS) that oversees retirement benefits, say mounting pension and health care costs prescribed in union contracts are unaffordable in the long term. But, workers believe IMMS is trying to reverse hard earned benefits won by the labor movement over the years. Currently, Mexican women can retire after 27 years of work, and Mexican men reach retirement at 28 years of service, regardless of their age at that time. In 2004, the Mexican government approved a reduction in retirement benefits. Union officials challenged the new rule and point to the high salaries paid to managers while workers’ benefits are cut. Both parties say they are working towards a resolution that protects retirees’ hard earned benefits. 

Canada: Leave Pension Act Alone, Workers' Group Says (October 13, 2005)
Former workers and retirees of a bankrupt pulp mill in Canada are fighting to retain pension benefits. A group of non union employees says they cannot afford any further reductions in pension payouts that are already scheduled to be slashed by at least 13%. Retiree advocates are encouraging government leaders not to alter the terms of the Pension Benefit Act to address the $13.9 million shortfall in the non union pension plan. The pulp mill company set up a non contributory pension plan for their non union workers over 55 as an incentive to stay with the firm. Canadian provincial government officials say tax dollars will not be used to cover the pension’s shortfall. Under current Pension Act rules, workers over 55 receive a pro rated amount of the remaining funds available, while those under 55 receive nothing. 

Mexico: Negotiations Drag as Strike Threatened (October 13, 2005)
In Mexico, the labor union representing health care workers is waging a fight to protect retirement benefits for its 400,000 members. Representatives of the Social Security Medical Institute (IMSS) that oversees retirement benefits, say mounting pension and health care costs prescribed in union contracts are unaffordable in the long term. But, workers believe IMMS is trying to reverse hard earned benefits won by the labor movement over the years. Currently, Mexican women can retire after 27 years of work, and Mexican men reach retirement at 28 years of service, regardless of age at that time. In 2004, the Mexican government approved a reduction in retirement benefits. Union officials challenged the new rule and point to the high salaries paid to managers while workers’ benefits are cut. Both parties say they are working towards a resolution that protects retirees’ hard earned benefits.

Belgium: Aging Population Threaten to Overwhelm Public Finances (October 11, 2005)
There was chaos this past Friday in the streets of Belgium. Thousands of workers marched out to strike because of the government’s decision to raise the pension age. The government came to this decision because of the decreasing numbers of workers and hence the lack of taxpayers to contribute to pay-as you-go pension funds. The possible options are to increase the contributions to social security for everyone or to cut some of the benefits. 

UK: Expensive, Ineffective and Unequal: Why Incentives Aren't The Answer to the Pension Crisis (October 2005)
The Trade Union Congress (TUC), Britian’s leading labor organization, is wary of proposed plans to implement tax incentives to increase retirement savings. TUC argues that incentives do not result in a higher savings rate, but rather in a more costly and complex system. Incentives do not assist low-income individuals to save more, as many do not have enough money to put some aside each month. In contrast, higher income earners are more likely to save as they have more money available to them and typically have more access to financial advice. The report also points out the ineffectiveness of 401k plans to increase pension coverage in the United States. 13% of full-time employees and 16% of part-time employees in the UK do not voluntarily enroll in pension plans, even if they are eligible to do so. TUC recommends that all employers and employees are required to pay into retirement pension plans. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) show tax incentives would increase savings by £1.2bn , while required contributions set at 3% from both employer and employee would increase savings by £5.3bn . 

UK: Unions Threaten 'Biggest Strike Since 1926' (September 14, 2005)
The British government is considering raising the public sector retirement age to 65 years. Outraged union leaders warned that 13 unions are prepared and ready to take action to protect their current retirement age of 60 years. If the Labour government goes ahead with the plan, 3 million public sector workers including members of the National Health Service and fire services could strike. The government defends its plan, stating that private sector workers retire at 65.

UK: Firms Fail to Advertise Pension Benefits Says TUC (August 18, 2005)

The Trades Union Congress has found that most job advertisements do not mention having pension benefits. Extolling company pension benefits is a key way to attract workers. Why aren’t employers using their pension plans to draw job candidates? The findings imply that workers do not take pensions seriously during their job search. Not only should employers broadcast their pension plans, but employees should take it upon themselves to claim their pension benefits.

Malawi: Government, Civil Servants lock Horns on Pensions (August 17, 2005)
The government has passed a new legislation that will recalculate civil workers’ pension benefits under a new five-year averaging method. The Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) are arguing that the new formula will yield reduced pension payouts, and are threatening to strike if the new system is not replaced. The groups’ ultimatum has not been met, and the Finance Mister states that it will not be met because there is no money to support a system that the civil servants want. 

Russia: The Heroes’ Protests (July 6, 2005)
(Article in Russian)
The National Heroes of the former Soviet Union are hunger striking to protest against the new bill for pensioners’ benefits. Despite the fact that the Russian Parliament offered the veterans new benefits, the protests will continue. The hunger strikers are requesting a new law that would offer citizens the right to participate in the decision making process of the governmental departments through the voice of the NGO’s, unions and other organizations. The protesters said they represent more than 600 Heroes and Cavaliers of the Order of Honour through these actions. Who else will come out on the streets so the voice of the citizens can be heard?  Veterans shouted this question during their protests and addressed their complaints to President V. Putin

Panama: Pension Reform Postponed (July 5, 2005)
After battling violent protests and firm opposition to the social security reforms of his country, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos has asked Parliament to postpone the implementation of a new pension law which, passed by the national assembly, raises the retirement age for both men and women and forces state workers to pay into their future pension fund for a minimum of 25 years in order to qualify. The new pension law is heavily opposed by trade union organizations and if it is not applied soon enough, Panama ’s Social Security Fund may suffer a deeper financial deficit and could dive into bankruptcy by the year 2012. The Panamanian government and popular trade union organizations hope to reach a consensus and have established talks in order to define the future of social security in their country.

Switzerland: Swiss Public Employees Oppose Pension Cuts (April 28, 2005)
VGB, the Swiss public sector employees’ union body that brings together the three public sector employee bodies PVB, VPOD and Garanto, has just launched a major petition to stop parliament’s pension and job cuts.

France: Strikes Urged In France Over Plan to Abolish Holiday (April 23, 2005)
A plan by the French government to abolish a holiday in May appeared to be in trouble Friday after unions said that workers were being exploited and called for a day of strikes and protests. The plan was proposed to generate more tax revenue for health care after hospitals failed to cope with a heat wave in August 2003 that killed many elderly people.

UK: Unions Threaten Strikes Over Pension Age (February 18, 2005)
Strikes could spread over Britain in the run-up to the general election, public sector unions warned today. Their members have gathered in meeting halls across the country to vent their anger over the government’s plans to raise their retirement age while the legislators give themselves luxurious pensions. To the barricades!

United Kingdom: Love Cards Contain Pensions Plea (February 14, 2005)
Public service union, Unison, delivered Valentine's cards to all Scottish MPs and MSPs, calling on them to defend public service pensions. 

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