Friday, 9 August 2019

Record Number of Pension Contributors Registered by HZMO

ZAGREB, August 9, 2019 - The data provided by the Croatian Pension Insurance Fund (HZMO) show that the number of active pension contributors in July reached a record high 1.6 million, the highest number since January 2012, and this trend is attributed to the country's economic growth and growing demand for workers in the tourism and construction industry.

Last month, as many as 1,600,405 persons were registered with the fund as active payers of pension contribution, which was 0.4% more than in June and 2.4% more than in July 2018.

Positive growth rates in the number of pension insurees have been going on since the second quarter of 2015, and Reiffeisen bank analysts say that this was the result of the economic recovery and growing demand for the workforce.

In the first seven months this year, the rise in the number of pension insurees was spurred mainly by the number of hired workers in the construction sector. The share of pension contributors in the construction industry to the overall number of pension insurees registered with HZMO is 7.2%.

The highest number of pension contributors are employees in the manufacturing industry, 248,324, however their statistics went down on the year since the start of 2019.

The HZMO "is a public institution established on the basis of the Pension Insurance Act which at the same time designated the commencement of the pension system reform aimed to providing for the mandatory pension insurance (PAYG) entitlements to the employees, farmers, craftsmen and others," the fund says on its website.

More news about pensions in Croatia can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Union Proposes Supplementary Health Insurance Census in Line with Poverty Threshold

ZAGREB, June 14, 2019 - The Croatian Pensioners Union on Friday asked Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and Health Minister Milan Kujundžić to raise the supplementary health insurance census to 2,321 kuna, which is the Croatian poverty threshold for a single pensioner.

The union proposes that the income census be determined every year in line with the poverty threshold which the national statistical office determines every year.

The union says in a press release that pensions will soon be indexed for the second time this year and that the 3.13% increase of the lowest pensions could result in about 10,000 pensioners losing the right to free health insurance.

With the last indexation, more than 3,000 pensioners received 40-50 kuna higher pensions, losing free supplementary health insurance, as a result of which they had to start paying 70 kuna a month, the union says, adding that now 250,000 of those with the lowest pensions are at risk of losing supplementary health insurance.

The income census has not been changed since 2004, which means that everyone whose income per family member exceeds 1,516 kuna, as well as single pensioners with incomes exceeding 1,939 kuna, will lose that right.

About 173,000 pensioners currently exercise the right to free supplementary health insurance. Since 2012, the number of supplementary health insurance policies paid by the state has dropped from 740,000 to 480,000, the union says.

More news about health issues can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Trade Unions Present 748,624 Signatures Collected for Pension Referendum

ZAGREB, June 13, 2019 - Unionists who launched the "67 is too much" campaign to collect signatures for a referendum on restoring the statutory pension age from 67 to 65 on Thursday submitted to the parliament a total of 65 boxes with 748,624 signatures collected from 27 April to 11 May.

In order for the referendum on pension eligibility to be called, it was necessary to collect at least 373,568 signatures.

After meeting with the unionists, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković explained the procedure to follow the receipt of the signatures, which also includes checking the validity of signatures and their exact number.

Furthermore, there is a possibility for the parliamentary committee on the Constitution to propose that the parliament should ask the Constitutional Court to check whether the proposed referendum question complies with the Constitution.

Asked by the press whether he believes that this question should be sent to the Court, Jandroković said that he would discuss the matter with party colleagues and coalition partners before giving an answer on the matter.

Jandroković said that the unionists were always welcome to the negotiating table, however, it seemed to him that they were now disinclined to resume the negotiations.

Asked by the press how come rating agencies and international institutions commend the pension reform undertaken by the government while the changes are being met with opposition in the country, Jandroković recalled the positive economic indicators such as economic growth and reform processes, including the pension reform, for which Croatia has been rated well.

"It is the people that have the final say, but it can happen that a good measure adopted by the government is contested by citizens," he said.

Mirela Bojić, one of the union coordinators who presented the signatures, said today that calling the referendum would be a good opportunity for the parliament to help citizens restore faith in top Croatian institutions.

Recently, Bojić has said she believes that the referendum question should pass the test at the Constitutional Court, even though "anything is possible in Croatia".

More referendum news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Anti-Pension Reform Referendum Signatures to Be Presented on Thursday

ZAGREB, June 11, 2019 - Union leader Krešimir Sever told Hina on Tuesday that signatures collected for a referendum petition for restoring the statutory retirement age from 67 to 65 would be submitted to the national parliament on Thursday.

The unionist said that a meeting of Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and the initiators of the referendum campaign "67 is too much" was scheduled for Thursday and that on that occasion, the unionists would hand the collected signatures.

In order for a pension eligibility conditions referendum to be called, it is necessary to collect at least 373,568 signatures, while the unions have said that they have counted more than 700,000 signatures.

"We expect the parliament to request the checking of the validity of signatures, and we are not afraid of that as we have already erased the signatures in which we have spotted deficiencies," Sever said.

He ruled out a possibility for the renewal of the negotiations with the government on pension eligibility conditions, saying that the unions insist on the holding of the vote.

More referendum news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Government Wants to Negotiate with Unions on Pension Referendum

ZAGREB, June 6, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government's pension reform, which was positively assessed in a European Commission report on Wednesday, was being implemented in the interest of pensioners, so that their pensions could be higher and there was no discrimination among pensioners.

Commenting on the EC's positive assessment of the pension reform, Plenković said that it was good the public was aware of it.

"Everything we have been doing is in the interest of pensioners, so they can have higher pensions and there is no discrimination. We have strengthened the second pension pillar, and are making positive changes, not only through indexation but also by caring about the minimum pensions, and all of that should be borne in mind when analysing our policy."

He said that the EC's recommendations provided additional encouragement and were proof that the reform process the government had been conducting for three years "has been acknowledged in the context of the fact that Standard&Poor's has upgraded Croatia's rating to the investment category, with GDP growth being it is and the EC recommendations being as they are, and we should pursue our policy."

The Jutarnji List daily said on Thursday that at a meeting on Wednesday the ruling coalition agreed that negotiations should be launched with trade unions in order to avert a referendum against the pension reform for which around 700,000 signatures have been collected, but that unions are against talks.

Several participants in the ruling coalition's meeting confirmed to the daily that the purpose of negotiations would be to avert the cancellation of the entire reform and try to save at least some of its segments that are good and acceptable to all and then negotiate with unions on some of the reform elements they consider to be the most contentious.

Meanwhile, a request would be sent to the Constitutional Court to see if the question in the unions' referendum petition is in line with the constitution, the daily says.

Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević told reporters ahead of a government meeting today that the government was willing to open dialogue with trade unions on the pension reform, and when asked if one of the options was the restoration of the statutory retirement age of 65, Kuščević said that all options were open "if the entire reform is on the table."

Kuščević said that the parliament should be the one to decide whether the 700,000 signatures collected in the union campaign for a referendum on restoring the retirement age to 65 would be checked, and that the government intended to negotiate with the unions.

"We respect the unions as a social partner and want to open dialogue with them and try to find common ground because it would be a pity if the entire pension reform was scrapped," Kuščević said, expressing hope unions would accept negotiations.

Asked if one of the options was also the statutory retirement age of 65, the minister said that "all options are open if the entire reform is on the table."

He added that the purpose of negotiations with unions should be to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said that funds for pensions for this year and next had been secured and were not in question.

He estimated that pension indexation for the first half of the year would be similar or the same in the second half. "This year indexation is slightly higher than planned and we will probably need more funds. My estimate is that instead of 40 billion kuna we will most probably need 41 billion kuna," the minister said.

He also said that he was generally in favour of dialogue but that he could not comment in greater detail on what would happen if the union referendum against the pension reform was held.

"This is not just a matter of the pension system, or budget revenue and expenditure for one or two years, we are talking about a time horizon of 30-40 years," he warned.

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

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Signatures for Referendum to Be Submitted to Parliament by End of Month

ZAGREB, May 18, 2019 - Unions that organised the "67 is too much" signature collection campaign for a referendum to restore the statutory retirement age from 67 to 65, said on Friday that they planned to submit the signatures to parliament by the end of May and added that they did not agree with a proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Predrag Štromar for conditions for a full pension to be amended without going to a referendum.

Signature lists are still coming from all counties to the initiative's head office for inspection, and only after that will the number of signatures be made public. The signatures will be submitted to the parliament most likely in the week after May 26, the initiative's national coordinator, Mirela Bojić, told Hina.

In order for a referendum on pension eligibility to be called, it is necessary to collect at least 373,568 signatures, while unofficial union sources have said that they have counted almost 700,000 signatures.

"The plan is to submit the signatures to parliament in the week after the European election and then parliament will decide on their inspection and on the assessment of the constitutionality of the referendum questions," Bojić said.

She added that the initiative resolutely rejects Štromar's proposal that the referendum be abandoned for the sake of saving money and that an agreement be reached with the unions regarding their demands.

"As far as we are concerned, we will not back down. The government had plenty of time. We literally begged for them to sit down at the table so that we don't have to collect signatures. However, now that we've collected this many signatures, we have an enormous responsibility toward citizens and insist that a referendum be held and the will of citizens respected," said Bojić.

She believes that the referendum questions should pass the test at the Constitutional Court even though "anything is possible in Croatia".

"With regard to the way we formulated the questions, which constitutional experts from all sides are talking about these days, I am convinced that the Constitutional Court has almost no manoeuvring room, unless that is an opportunistic political decision which, unfortunately we have been accustomed to recently," she added.

The initiative expects the referendum to be called for early September.

More news about the retirement age referendum can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Disagreements in Ruling Coalition about Pension System Referendum?

ZAGREB, May 16, 2019 - Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Thursday that there were no disagreements between the ruling coalition parties HDZ and HNS over a referendum against the pension reform, while Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said that the present pension system was untenable.

"I wouldn't say so. We've had such discussions before and eventually everyone raised their hand in favour. We'll talk about it," Marić told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting when asked to comment on reported disagreements between the HDZ and the HNS over the pension system and unions' referendum initiative.

Asked if the government should prevent a referendum on returning the statutory retirement age from 67 to 65 by amending the Pension Insurance Act, Marić said that they would talk about it. "The pension system is not just a matter of a one or three-year budget, it is a system and should be looked at over 20, 30 or 50 years," the finance minister said.

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said that the present pension system was untenable, noting that privileged pensions should be awarded only in exceptional cases.

Asked if she thought that the present law should be changed to prevent the referendum, Divjak said that the existing mechanisms should be used and dialogue should be pursued to save the 50 million kuna (6.75 million euro) that would be spent on the referendum and see if the system could be improved. "I think that this option should definitely be supported," she added.

Asked if more than 600,000 signatures gathered for the referendum was a clear message to the government, Divjak said that it was a message both to this and to previous governments. "Either it was not made clear what problems could arise with the existing pensioner-employee ratio or the government's solutions are unacceptable to the majority," she said.

"The solution adopted by parliament was good, but is it the only possible one? Citizens have signalled with their signatures that a different solution should be sought," Divjak said.

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

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Referendum Initiative Claims It Has Gathered over 600,000 Signatures

ZAGREB, May 12, 2019 - The unions-led referendum initiative "67 is too much" announced in Zagreb's main square at midnight on Saturday that they had gathered over 600,000 signatures for a referendum to prevent the statutory retirement age from being raised from 65 to 67.

Under the law, organisers of a referendum are required to gather the signatures of at least 373,568 voters, or 10 percent of the electorate, before formally filing a referendum petition.

The initiative's national coordinator Mirela Bojić told a press conference that the signatures would be submitted to parliament within two weeks, after the signature sheets were thoroughly checked.

The leader of the Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH), Mladen Novosel, said they expected the referendum to be held in early September.

More news about the possible referendum can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Constitutional Court Asks Ministry to Explain Financing of Pension Reform TV Ads

ZAGREB, May 7, 2019 - The Constitutional Court on Tuesday asked the Ministry of Labour and Pension System to explain the financing of an advertising campaign on the comprehensive pension reform, which the unions and opposition claim is directed against the "67 is too much" referendum initiative.

"The Constitutional Court has decided that it will request a detailed report from the Ministry of Labour and Pension System about the spending for the videos, how much in total is foreseen, how much has been spent until now, whether those funds are from the state budget and what their precise purpose is," President of the Constitutional Court Miroslav Šeparović told Hina.

He added that the explanation was requested "immediately and without delay," after which the court will decide whether it will take any steps.

"A grave violation of the rules of democratic procedure is required for the Constitutional Court to use its supervisory authority in this pre-referendum phase, a violation which in fact eliminates the possibility for citizens to express themselves at a referendum," he said.

The Constitutional Court has not been presented for now with the sort of evidence which would require it to react. We will continue to monitor the situation and, after the ministry submits its response, we will decide which steps to take, Šeparović explained.

MP Peđa Grbin of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Friday said that he had written to the Constitutional Court because he believed that the government was using taxpayers' money to finance a campaign against an ongoing union campaign for a referendum against the statutory retirement age of 67.

Grbin asked that the court use its powers to supervise referendum activities and warn participants in those activities, in this case state institutions, that their conduct is not in line with the constitution and laws.

Grbin claimed that the government was using public money to finance its campaign against the union referendum campaign.

Minister of Labour and Pension System Marko Pavić on Monday said that the campaign on the comprehensive pension reform was not an anti-referendum campaign and reiterated that a referendum is a democratic right, however, the government is obliged to continually inform citizens of the reforms it is implementing.

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Trade Unions and Employers Clash over Retirement Age Referendum

ZAGREB, April 30, 2019 - The "67 Is Too Much" referendum initiative on Tuesday said that the Croatian Employers Association's (HUP) claim that the union campaign for a referendum against raising the statutory retirement age to 67 will not change the problems in the pension system shows yet once again that HUP does not understand the problems in the pension system nor Croatia's reality.

"Referendums evidently cannot contribute to resolving problems in the pension system nor is it their purpose. As such it is absolutely out of place to express such a criticism of the union initiative. The aim of this referendum is something entirely different and that is self-defence from the egoism of political elites for the sake of protection of the people and their dignity in their senior years," said the initiative, consisting of three trade unions.

The initiative was responding to claims made yesterday by HUP that a possible union referendum on whether retirement age should be set at 67 will not help resolve the problems of the pension system.

Representatives of the referendum initiative underscore that HUP is hypocritical when it calls on unions to engage in a responsible dialogue and asks if "HUP is the organisation of those who advocate a retirement age of 67 yet at the same time won't employ anyone older than 55 or fires them?"

"Are we talking about the organisation of those that forced 79% of workers into early retirement (the other 20% left due to illness and just 1% went into retirement voluntarily)? As for responsibility, was it members of HUP that drastically reduced the cost of labour over the past 10 years and wholeheartedly supported governments that implemented such suicidal economics, which has led to the economic depression and the exodus of the population and drastically worsened working conditions? Now HUP, too, advocates higher wages but it wants taxpayers to help them achieve it," the initiative says in a press release.

The unions consider it to be irresponsible to say that as few as 20 percent of pensioners earned their pensions based on the required number of years of service or old age without mentioning the policies that caused it.

The initiative notes that HUP is not calling on the government to implement an active economic policy or ensure higher growth rates, higher employment and higher wages, or prepare for the fourth industrial revolution but is only calling for encouraging payments into the 2nd pension pillar.

"Since the 2nd pillar is a source of profit for HUP's cronies and at the same time a source of the budget deficit and public debt, we expect HUP to continue supporting the government in its fight against the budget deficit and public debt by calling for the restriction of workers' rights," the referendum initiative said.

HUP on Monday said that the main problem of the pension system is the fact that as few as 20 percent of pensioners earned their pensions based on the required number of years of service or old age, noting that the average duration of working life in Croatia is slightly over 30 years and urging the unions and politicians to discuss the pension reform responsibly, without populist rhetoric.

More news about the referendum can be found in the Politics section.

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