ETUC response to the European Commission's Communication "Second consultation phase of the social partners with a view to improving the portability of supplementary pension"

Brussels, 16 October 2003

1. On 15 September 2003, the Commission launched the second phase of its consultation of the social partners on the portability of supplementary pension rights, that is to say on the possibility to acquire and conserve pension rights in the case of mobility. By this process, the Commission wants the social partners to:
- provide it with an opinion or recommendation concerning the content and scope of application of a Community initiative intended to improve the portability of supplementary pension rights;
- to inform it, if applicable, of their decision to participate in negotiations, specifying whether they want to adopt a global approach or focus on certain elements of portability and on the scope of the negotiation procedure, that is to say on the types of occupational schemes to be taken into consideration.

2. As it announced in its response to the first consultation phase, the ETUC is in favour of a European initiative capable of eliminating obstacles to the mobility of workers, in particular in the area of occupational pensions and more specifically the acquisition, conservation and portability of rights. What is more such an initiative is part of its demands.

3. This initiative should cover all obstacles identified to date and concern all types of occupational pensions schemes, excluding of course those which fall within the scope of Regulation EEC/1408/71.

4. It could be twofold in nature:
- On the one hold, legislative; such an initiative would cover, in particular, the removal of obstacles to mobility, in the scope of occupational pensions, related to fiscality, or the removal of current legal obstacles linked to the transfer of capital, corresponding to occupational pension rights acquired by a worker.
- The other could involve the social partners and be translated by a European framework agreement.

5. This European framework agreement would be the expression of the major principles which should include, in particular, those to which the ETUC attaches particular importance, namely:
- Negotiation between the social partners: the putting in place of supplementary pensions schemes is an integral part of this negotiation and the social partners have a legitimate role to play in controlling and monitoring such systems;
- A refusal to call into question the organisation of supplementary occupational pension schemes: a framework agreement must neither undermine them nor, more generally speaking, call into question the architecture of national pension systems;
- The acquisition of occupational pension rights: these are acquired according to conditions to be determined at the appropriate level, independently of the period of employment in the enterprise or in the country, the employee's age and his or her working time or the amount of his or her salary;
- Equal treatment in conserving rights acquired: between mobile workers, including within the same State and other workers;
- The right to transfer the capital corresponding to acquired rights: notably based on a solution intended to remove technical obstacles.

6. To sum up, the ETUC gives priority to the European social dialogue for the elaboration of the major principles. It is therefore ready, at its level, to participate in negotiations with its European partners, provided that these are ready to participate in the same process, as indeed are its European national and sectoral organisations at their level.

7. These principles should be implemented at national level, in the framework of the social dialogue, which could be, according to the principles addressed, inter-professional or sectoral.

8. Should the other partners be unwilling to participate in such negotiations, the ETUC calls on the European Commission to assume its responsibilities and take the necessary directives to ensure the implementation of these principles.