Ministry's plan of abolishing special pensions angers unions

Estonian National Ballet dancers.
Estonian National Ballet dancers. Source: Estonian National Ballet

The Ministry of Social Affairs has sent out for coordination draft legislation to abolish special pensions in a move that has taken the sides completely by surprise. Peep Peterson, head of the Estonian Trade Unions Confederation, said that the bill fails to consider a single compromise proposal by the unions and the ministry itself.

Peterson said that the bill concerns some 10,000 families of people who have been paid pensions with benefits or superannuated pensions, from yardmasters and air traffic controllers to opera soloists and ballerinas. Even though sides made several proposals to soften the effect of planned legislation, Peterson said that none have made their way into the bill.

"Therefore, it comes as a complete shock to us, and I have to tell you that a shock like that results in strikes in the civilized world. Of course, we will discuss this matter with the unions it concerns on Monday and throughout next week in terms of what that will mean in Estonia, but we aim to block this bill until we have agreements for alleviation necessary for thousands in theaters, transport and in Ida-Viru County – until we have certainty of solutions," Peterson said.

The bill would allow people to continue racking up length of service necessary for pensions with benefits and superannuated pensions until 2030 or until 2036 in professions where more pensionable service is required.

"People have until the morning of January 10 to chime in and political debates will continue. But the decision is to abolish the pensions with benefits and superannuated pensions systems over a very long period," Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform Party) said.

The unions' proposals primarily aimed for exceptions for the energy sector and leaving people enough time for retraining in other areas.

"This kind of rushing where we revoke laws and expect problems to just disappear – it is rather underhanded," Peterson found.

The Estonian Ballet Union also strongly opposes the plan of abolishing superannuated pensions.

"It takes great dedication from the age of 9-10 to become a ballet artist. The profession needs to be appreciated and valued in our culture," union head Triinu Leppik-Upkin said.

"I believe the bill will not be passed. We intend to oppose it with everything we've got in the Riigikogu, and experience suggests that without an agreement between social partners – when employers or unions are very unhappy – such amendments fail to manifest," Peterson said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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