Monday, 4 May 2020

Pensioners' MP Criticised for Voting Against Increasing Means-Test Threshold

ZAGREB, May 4, 2020 - The association of pensioners MUH and the trade union of pensioners SUH on Monday welcomed the increase of the means-test threshold for free supplementary health insurance in favour the poorest pensioners, while criticising the MP of the Pensioners' Party (HSU), Silvano Hrelja, for voting against this proposal.

"It is surprising that the only elected representative of pensioners in the Croatian parliament voted against this indisputable move in favour of the poorest pensioners, and just because the proposal of his party to increase the means-test threshold did not pass a few months ago," the two organisations said in a joint statement.

Hrelja, a long-serving MP for pensioners "who has been representing the pensioners since he was 45", questioned the right of pensioner organisations to participate in the launch of initiatives and proposals to change the laws claiming that only he as a member of Parliament could represent the pensioners, MUH and SUH said.

They said that the amended Voluntary Health Insurance Act would benefit thousands of pensioners with low pensions who had lost the right to free supplementary health insurance because of pension adjustments.

"The representatives of pensioners demanded that the new means-test threshold be determined at the level of the Croatian poverty line, but since it was not possible to ensure the necessary funding, they agreed to a compromise solution, provided that the means test was aligned with pension growth every year. As a result, the new means-test threshold increased by HRK 60 to HRK 2,000 for single pensioners and by HRK 47 to HRK 1,563 per family member," the statement said.

More economic news can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Pensioners' Associations Call for Allowances to Be Delivered by Post


ZAGREB, March 31, 2020 - A pensioners union and association on Tuesday called for urgent steps so pension allowances can be delivered by post in an effort to protect the elderly and ensure their survival while isolation measures are in force.

We are urgently launching an initiative to introduce the temporary possibility of delivering pension allowances by post based on phone requests. Every day we are receiving requests from pensioners or their relatives warning of the problem of pension allowances being delivered to the majority of pensioners, particularly those who live alone, exclusively in banks, because with the obligatory isolation for the elderly and suspension of public transport they have no way of obtaining their pension allowances, the associations said in a press release.

They have been warning about this problem since 2014 when the possibility of pension allowances delivered by post was abandoned for everyone retired since then.

The pensioners' associations consider this to be an urgent matter so that the survival of the elderly can be ensured without them causing any threats to health.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Government to Upgrade System Against People Smuggling, Introduce National Pension in 2020

ZAGREB, January 1, 2020 - During the new 2020, the Croatian government plans to step up the fight against migrant smuggling, raise the minimum wage, and introduce a national pension allowance, and those are some of the steps and measures about which Hina has prepared a brief overview.

The Interior Ministry plans to continue its activities concerning Croatia's bid to be admitted to the Schengen Area and to establish a visa-free regime with the United States of America by the end of 2020.

At the end of 2019, a year in which Croatia met all the technical requirements to enter the Schengen Area, the Interior Ministry announced that in 2020 it would continue communicating with the relevant services in the European Commission and Council of the European Union.

In 2020 the ministry will continue to upgrade the system for the efficient prevention of people smuggling and irregular migrations and cross-border crime.

The authorities plan to continue improving working conditions for police officers, which includes enhancement of their material rights and procurement of equipment, education and further training.

The ministry promises that it will exert maximum effort with regard to criminal investigations of war crimes in identifying perpetrators and bringing them to trial.

In 2020, several courses will be introduced including a comprehensive course for reserve police officers, a course in Civil Protection, and a college course in criminology and public security.

Amendments are planned for the Law on Personal Identification Cards and on January 1 the Law on Croatian Citizenship enters into force which facilitates procedures for Croatian descendants to obtain citizenship abroad.

The ministry also intends to sponsor a bill on foreigners which will regulate labour relations based on a model that will be more favourable for employers.

The Ministry of Justice has announced that in 2020 it will enable electronic communication with the courts with regard to court proceedings.

After legal steps have been taken, the ministry will in 2020 publicly release Declarations of Assets for judicial officials.

The Ministry of Labour and Pension System plans to increase the minimum wage by 8.33% which will then in 2020 amount to a gross amount of 4,062.51 kuna or a net value of 3,250 kuna.

The ministry also plans to introduce a national pension for socially vulnerable elderly citizens who are not eligible for a pension based on their working life or contributions to the pension fund. This refers to citizens who do not have a working life of more than the minimum of 15 years and who are over 65 years of age and have no other source of income.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Pensioners Parties of Croatia, Unite!

ZAGREB, November 28, 2019 - The leaders of four pensioners parties on Thursday signed an agreement of cooperation which, as they said, is the first step toward uniting into a single party in an effort to avoid votes being dispersed and ensure a stronger impact on improving pensioners' rights.

The Croatian Pensioners' Party (HSU), Pensioners Together Block (BUZ), Pensioners of Slavonia and Baranja (USB) and the Democratic Pensioners' Party (DSU) agreed on mutual support in all activities aimed at improving the status of pensioners.

HSU leader Silvano Hrelja said that the pensioner community was too fragmented and that that needed to be changed through cooperation on projects.

He recalled that three months ago he had sent an invitation to anyone wishing to discuss cooperation in resolving the problems facing pensioners and the possibility of forming a single party.

BUZ leader Milivoj Špika said that today was the start of changes on the political scene ahead of the next parliamentary election.

Asked whether the united pensioners' parties would compete in the parliamentary election on their own or in a coalition with some other party, Hrelja said that that depended on pensioners themselves and their support. He added that the pensioner camp had to remain in parliament because without it, pensioners' allowances would be equal to 33% of the average wage.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

More Pensioners to Be Eligible for Free Supplemental Health Insurance?

ZAGREB, October 24, 2019 - The Croatian Pensioners Union (SUH), which insists on raising the income threshold for eligibility to free supplemental health insurance so that a higher number of pensioners can be given free-of charge supplemental health insurance, on Thursday sent an open letter to the government with its demands.

Representatives of the SUH gathered outside Government House in the morning to inform the general public of their demand that the government should provide a higher number of pensioners with free supplemental health insurance.

The unionists warn that the pension indexation in the last years led to higher monthly pension allowances, while the income threshold has remained the same, which is why some 10,000 pension recipient have lost their right to have the state pay for their supplemental health insurance.

The income threshold is the same since 2004: for instance, 1,939 kuna for a single-member household, while the SUH union insists that this threshold should be raised to 2,485 kuna, which means that all pension recipients whose monthly income is below that line should be eligible to have the state pay for their supplemental health insurance.

The union says that 98% of monthly pension allowances is below the average monthly wage, and 55% of monthly pension allowances is below the poverty line of 2,485 kuna.

Currently, 163,000 pension recipients are covered by the scheme of the supplemental health insurance paid by the state for them, while others have to pay with their own funds.

SUH activists announced further protest actions until their demands are met.

More pension system news can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Government Restoring Statutory Retirement Age to 65

ZAGREB, October 17, 2019 - Ivan Šuker, a lawmaker of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), said in parliament on Thursday that, whether someone liked it or not, the fact was that the HDZ was restoring the statutory retirement age to 65.

Šuker criticised opposition members of the parliament who he said had rushed to sign the referendum petition launched by the trade unions' "67 is too much" initiative, while they are going vote against the government-sponsored proposal to reinstate the statutory age for retirement at 65.

If you do not vote for the law on Friday and if we do not support the law unanimously, this will mean that you have not told the truth to Croatian citizens, the HDZ MP said in his address to the opposition lawmakers who fiercely criticised the government-tabled law whereby the statutory retirement age will be 65 and penalisation for early retirement will be made milder.

Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said earlier in the day that the government had respected the demands of some 750,000 citizens who had signed the referendum petition.

On the other hand, some of the opposition lawmakers criticised the government's decision, with Mirando Mrsić of the Democrats party insisting on separating the allocations for pensions under special schemes from the general pension fund.

The opposition MPs who participated in the discussion said that the collected signatures during the "67 is too much" campaign were the expression of the general public's disapproval of the policy pursued by the ruling HDZ.

Branko Hrg of the HDS party, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, said that disrespecting the will of the citizens who signed the petition would be insensible.

He also commented on "a political amnesia" and recalled that it was Mrsić who had proposed raising the retirement age to 67 while serving as Labour and Pension System Minister in the SDP government led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.

More pension news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Government Abruptly Withdraws Labour Act from Procedure

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Labour Ministry state secretary Majda Burić informed the parliamentary Labour, Pension System and Social Partnership Committee on Wednesday that the government was withdrawing from procedure amendments to the Labour Act the committee was to have discussed today.

She did not say why the government was doing so.

Committee chair Gordan Maras of the opposition Social Democratic Party said "it's unusual" to do so just before the start of the committee meeting, while Ante Babić of the ruling HDZ said "the circumstances are such, the government is talking with the social partners."

An external committee member noted that this was done without the social partners' knowledge, to which Burić replied that the government acknowledged the social partners, cooperating both with the unions and the Croatian Employers Association (HUP).

Earlier this morning HUP cancelled a scheduled press conference with the explanation that it had been notified by the government that it would withdraw from further procedure a bill of amendments to the Labour Act which regulated the possibility of working for another three years after qualifying for age pension eligibility at 65.

Said bill was part of a pension reform package and we have also been notified that the necessary labour legislation improvements will be discussed through the social dialogue, HUP said.

The government says on its website that it held a conference call on Tuesday at which it decided to withdraw six bills from parliamentary procedure, and that it will discuss the bills with the social partners and then send them into regular procedure.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday the government had not capitulated before employers but only wanted additional consultations, adding that it was drawing up laws in citizens' interest.

He was asked by the press why the government had withdrawn six bills from procedure. "We believe we still have time to adopt them in regular procedure."

The government says on its website that it held a conference call on Tuesday at which it decided to withdraw six bills from parliamentary procedure, and that it will discuss them with the social partners and then send them into regular procedure.

The bills envisage amendments to the Labour Act, two laws on civil servants, the Healthcare Act, the law on elementary and high school education, and the law on science and higher education.

Asked if that was done in the interest of unions, employers or someone else, Plenković said it was "in the interest of Croatian citizens."

A member of the press remarked that if he was yielding to employers, he could also raise teachers' salaries, to which he said: "You'll hear everything today and everything will be clear."

Asked if he would receive the striking teachers or if the government's offer of a pay rise which they turned down was still on the table, Plenković said he was always for dialogue.

The Alliance of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH) on Wednesday welcomed the government decision to withdraw six pension and labour bills from the fast-track procedure and the announcement by the government that it would further consider the bills with social partners and then send them to Parliament for adoption under regular procedure.

SSSH recalled in a statement its open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in which it said that it would be reasonable and responsible not to pass these bills under fast-track procedure but first to evaluate their effects and envisage a transition period for all or individual activities.

More pension news can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Women Who Retire This Year Have Higher Pensions Than Men

ZAGREB, October 14, 2019 - The women in Croatia who have this year retired after full length of service are entitled to higher pensions than their male counterparts, the Zagreb-based Večernji List daily reported on Monday.

The margin of only 24 kuna (3.3 euros) is slight, however this difference in favour of women is an important headway having in mind the fact that pensions earned by men have always been higher than those earned by their female peers, the daily newspaper says.

For instance, the average old-age pension for the men who went into retirement in 2013 after full length of service was 18% higher than the average-old-age pension for female retirees in that year.

The average monthly pension allowance for the men who early retired in 2013 was 25% higher compared to pension allowance for their female counterparts.

On the other hand, the average old-age pension for the men who went into retirement in the first seven months of 2019 is 3020 kuna, whereas the average monthly old-pension for female retirees in that period is 3044 kuna.

The data do not include figures about recipients of pensions earned abroad.

Pension allowances paid to women have been on the rise in the recent years due to the fact that women remain on the labour market longer and longer and due to the fact that their statutory pension age is being equalised with the pension age for male recipients.

In the first seven months of this year, 30,000 employees met conditions to go into retirement.

Of them, 14,801 were women, and slightly below 6,000 were women who retired after full length of service. About 3,000 were women who retired early and were entitled to early old-age pension, and the remaining number of new pension recipients were recipients of family pension allowances.

The Croatian Pension Insurance Agency (HZMO) has reported that so far, 6,842 pension recipients have been registered as those who are entitled to an additional six months of service per each born or adopted child. And this results in a two-percent rise in pensions per each born or adopted child, the daily newspaper notes.

These entitlements that depend on the number of born and adopted children have been added to pensions for female recipients by a recent decision made by the government led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, the Večernji List recalls.

More pension system news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Postponing Retirement in Science Could Hamper Hiring of Young Scientists

ZAGREB, September 30, 2019 - Representatives of the government and unions on Monday resumed negotiations on extending years of service until the age of 68 and it was said that, without clear criteria, this could cause a disaster in science and higher education due to the complicated hiring and promotion of young scientists, which would result in emigration.

"Should the working life be extended, over the next three years there would be no promotions of young people and their employment in science and higher education. Given the EU's open borders, excellent young scientists will leave the country," the state secretary at the science ministry, Tome Antičić, said after a meeting on changes to labour and pension laws aimed at enabling people to work until 68.

Antičić said many scientists were interested in working until 68 but added that this could have unforeseen consequences because wage amounts and the wage index were fixed.

If the retirement age is set at 68 without some criteria, it will be a disaster, he said, adding that a request would be made in the negotiations for employers to set criteria for working until 68.

Unionist Krešimir Sever said the unions stated today their position that it was necessary to compensate the more than 5,000 workers who were retired early this year.

The unions also request the establishment of a fund for the compensation of workers who were retired early and who receive reduced pensions. "The employer who got rid of them, because they consider them too old, would make payments into some kind of fund so that those people may receive full pensions," said Sever.

Employers have always been against this, yet this year they have continued to get rid of older workers who could still work, he added.

After meeting unions, government representatives held a separate meeting with representatives of employers to discuss changes to labour and pension laws.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Assets of Mandatory Pension Funds Continuing to Grow

ZAGREB, September 27, 2019 - At the end of 2018 four mandatory pension funds had a total of 1.9 million members, which is almost 92,000 more than at the end of 2017 while their net assets increased by 6.2 billion kuna to 98.13 billion kuna, the government heard on Thursday.

The government called on parliament to endorse a report on the operation of the four mandatory pension funds - Raiffeisen, Erste, AZ and PBZ/Croatia Osiguranje - in 2018.

According to data presented by Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović, at the end of 2018 the four pension funds had a total of 1,936,261 members, 91,989 more than in 2017.

He warned, however, that citizens were poorly informed of the possibility to independently choose a mandatory pension fund.

According to the Central Register of Insurees (Regos), only one percent of citizens chose a mandatory pension fund themselves, and the rest were allocated randomly.

The total net assets of the pension funds at the end of 2018 amounted to 98.13 billion kuna or 6.2 billion kuna more year on year.

"Assets in members' personal accounts in mandatory pension funds continued to grow owing to a continued increase in contributions as well as positive macro-economic circumstances and the average yield on invested funds," Aladrović underscored.

According to cumulative data, the four companies managing mandatory pension funds generated a revenue of 457 million kuna in 2018, which is 23 million kuna more y-o-y while their total expenditure amounted to 211 million kuna. The cumulative net profit of those companies was 202 million kuna, Aladrovic explained.

More news about the pension system can be found in the Politics section.

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