Vienna plans pension age initiative


The Viennese city coalition plans to crack down on early retirement.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Mayor Michael Häupl announced yesterday (Tues) that he wanted to increase the average pension age of the capital’s public servants from the current 56 to 60 years. Häupl did not disclose when the four-year increase should be achieved.

His announcement came on the same day as claims by the People’s Party (ÖVP) that 64 Viennese civil servants quit at the average age of 51 so far this month. The conservative party, which cooperated with the Viennese SPÖ between 1996 and 2011, said the current occurrences would cost the city 200 million Euros a year if the city hall coalition failed to interfere.

The ÖVP also announced plans for a referendum in the districts of Mariahilf and Neubau over the future of the Mariahilfer Straße. The street – one of Austria’s most popular shopping hotspots – could be turned into a shared space zone. Another alternative the Greens envisage is turning certain stretches of the road into a pedestrian area. Critics think that such a reform would only increase motorised traffic in smaller streets situated in the direct vicinity to Mariahilfer Straße.

The Viennese ÖVP branch’s policies are rather pro-car traffic as the party’s various attacks at the city coalition about rising parking ticket prices and other measures confirm. The Freedom Party (FPÖ) can trust on car owners as a stronghold. The party is also doing excellently among workers and elderly people. Both social classes fear rising disadvantages due to economic and social changes – and rising support among former SPÖ voters helped the FPÖ to do significantly better in the city election of 2010 when it bagged 25.77 per cent than in 2005 when it only won 14.8 per cent.

Häupl’s promise to raise the average pension age of public servants comes only days after high-ranking representatives of GÖD, the civil servants’ branch in the Austrian Trade Union (ÖGB), claimed that recent agreements with SPÖ Minister for Public Servants Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek would not significantly affect the current service law.

The federal SPÖ-ÖVP coalition claimed a full success when it emerged that public servants would soon have to be more flexible considering their workplace. Heinisch-Hosek and ÖVP Finance Minister Maria Fekter saw great savings potential by passing laws ensuring that civil servants could not refuse to work elsewhere in the public sector if their services were no longer needed.

GÖD officials underlined that more flexibility in this concern was demanded already anyway. Experts and observers think that the government will not manage to strongly lower costs of the public sector since the decisive laws are not yet legally binding. GÖD leaders kept the pressure up by refusing to rule out strikes. The politically powerful ÖGB section is currently checking the government’s suggestions. GÖD is expected to veto some of the more radical reform ideas of the coalition while it seems as if the organisation gave up its fight against a wage freeze in 2013.

The average age at which Austrians retire ranges around 58 at the moment. Economist Bernhard Felderer identified the issue as crucial for the financial condition of the country. He said an increase of just a few years in the foreseeable future would be of great help in reducing the state’s debt ratio while some unionists reacted sceptically to the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition’s decision to block everyone younger than 50 from retiring due to invalidity. Works council officials representing forestry workers and construction sector staff claimed that this meant that the government doubted physicians’ analyses.

Austria’s rising debts and risk factors of the country’s banks’ engagement in Eastern Europe (EE) tempted Moody’s to issue a negative economic outlook earlier this month. The rating agency did not correct Austria’s AAA rating – but there are indicators that it will do so soon. Research group Karmasin found that 62 per cent of Austrians consider rating agencies as more influential in the Eurozone crisis than the affected countries’ politicians.