Trade union president draws heavy criticism over early retirement: "social fraud", says N-VA

Criticism is mounting over the early retirement scheme for Christian Trade Union (ACV) president Marc Leemans, who will vacate his post on January 1st, 2024. According to media reports, ACV intends to dismiss Leemans, allowing him to enter the so-called "unemployment with company allowance" (SWT) system. According to Flemish government party N-VA (Flemish nationalist), this is a blatant case of "social fraud".

On Tuesday, several media reported that Leemans will quit as chairman of ACV on January 1st, 2024. According to various reports, however, Leemans will retire under the SWT scheme - a system introduced after Belgium abolished the classical early retirement system.

The scheme has little to do with an actual pension but is, in fact, a kind of unemployment benefit, Jan Vantournhout of HR agency SD Worx explained on Flemish public radio. This means that only fired employees (who have yet to reach the legal retirement age) are entitled to SWT benefits. According to Vantournhout, the practice is relatively common in cases where an employer and employee agree that a career is coming to an end.

"This is a jaw-dropping slap in the face of all those working today, as their wages are used to pay those kinds of benefits."

The alleged agreement for ACV chairman Leemans has drawn staunch criticism from Flemish government parties N-VA (Flemish nationalists) and Open VLD (liberal party). "Too crazy for words," Flemish minister Matthias Diependaele (N-VA) reacted after the news broke. Fellow N-VA member and Flemish MP Axel Ronse went further and accused the union president of committing social fraud. "What ACV just did is a major problem and deserves a comprehensive debate in the Flemish Parliament. This is a jaw-dropping slap in the face of all those working today, as their wages are used to pay those kinds of benefits. In this case, it is clearly a case of social fraud."

The Flemish liberals did not spare criticism either. "Social security is for people who have the misfortune to lose their jobs and become unemployed INvoluntarily. Voluntarily serving yourself on benefits, and treating this as normal, shows that some unions are threatening our welfare model. This is no longer acceptable," Open VLD president Egbert Lachaert believes.



#FlandersNewsService | Christian Trade Union (ACV) president Marc Leemans © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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