A much-anticipated debate about the planned work ability reform reached the Estonian Parliament today. The parliamentary discussion was called for by the organizations and lobby groups representing people with special needs.
Tiia Sihver, a board member of the Estonian Union of Disabled Persons, has previously expressed disapproval of the reform, insisting that Estonia is not yet ready for the changes, and the parliament should re-evaluate it.
Organizations representing the disabled and those with special needs submitted a petition to the parliament on October 20. Signed by 3,500 people, the petition claimed that the initiators of the reform do not have a proper understanding how to help disabled people to find jobs again.
The coalition partners at the government, Reform Party and Social Democrats, have been at odds how and when to implement the reform. Minister of Social Protection Helmen Kütt, a Social Democrat, has allegedly hinted that if amendments to the work ability reform do not pass, she will resign. Kütt recently expressed her support to the special needs groups who are protesting against the way work ability reform is conducted.
Reform Party politicians maintain the reform is meant to relieve some of the pressure on the pension system and encourage the employment of people with limited ability to work.
Opponents say that the draft bill is rushed and not helpful enough. It has also been rumored that the reform is being pushed through by the Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas personally, as he was at the helm of the Ministry of Social Affairs when the work ability reform was first initiated few years ago.