Pilz opposes pay freeze

A veteran Green Party member has spoken out against the government’s decision not to increase politicians’ wages next year.

The coalition of Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger’s People’s Party (ÖVP) said on Sunday members of the parliament (MPs) would not get more in 2012.

Delegates’ salaries were most recently increased in 2008. The government’s decision has not become legally effective yet but is expected to get unanimous approval from the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ).

The Greens are also tipped to back the bill, but now Peter Pilz – a founding member of the party which is currently the smallest faction in parliament – criticised the SPÖ-ÖVP administration concerning the issue.

Pilz said today (Tues) Faymann and Spindelegger would not deserve an increase of their wages for their “botched jobs”. The left-winger also stressed he had no understanding for why he should not receive financial compensation for the inflation rate himself due to the government’s poor performance.

Pilz said he was angered about the general approach to the issue indicating that “politicians are worth nothing”. He did not disclose whether he planned to veto a draft bill over the issue expected to be discussed in parliament early next month.

Spokesmen for Faymann and Spindelegger were quick to publicly declare that the government had no intention to agree on a pay rise for themselves. Their statements came shortly after BZÖ chairman Josef Bucher said the coalition might consider agreeing on an increase of incomes of MPs, Austrian members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and Austrian President Heinz Fischer.

Officials representing Faymann and Spindelegger explained the government wanted to “do their bit” in improving the financial situation of the country. At least one opposition faction must approve their proposal to make it constitutional as a two-third majority is needed in this case.

Austrian MPs get 8,160 Euros before tax a month whereas the chancellor receives 20,400 Euros. The vice chancellor’s monthly salary is 18,000 Euros. Fischer is paid more than 22,800 Euros each month. The state will spend around three million Euros less than initially planned if the government coalition and one opposition faction agree on a pay freeze for 2012.

Significantly higher savings potential is seen in the healthcare sector and Austria’s general subsidisation policy. ÖVP MP Martin Bartenstein suggested that state-funded Federal Railways (ÖBB) should sell some of its properties and spend less on infrastructure projects. Spindelegger said his party wanted to create a system of financial premiums for people willing to retire later than they had to. Günther Kräuter of the SPÖ said higher taxation rates should be introduced for those who earned 300,000 Euros or more a year. Andreas Schieder, the party’s state secretary for finance, called for higher land taxes.

Austerity measures could also affect university budgets and investments into kindergartens and day care centres. Reports have it that the government also considers an increase of mineral oil taxes to benefit from the so-called fuelling tourism. Thousands of Czechs, Germans and people from other countries bordering Austria are visiting the country only to refuel their cars as petrol is more expensive in their homelands.

The government’s intentions to spend less in the coming years to lower the state debt and the budget deficit may also force SPÖ Defence Minister Norbert Darabos from carrying out pilot projects at barracks. The minister recently said he started checking if the country’s military would be effective if it became a fully professional one. Darabos wants to get rid of the current conscription system. He is in favour of a reduction of the army’s workforce level. Only one year ago, Darabos claimed that the conscription system “is set in stone” and would not be reformed as long as he was in charge of the Austrian military.