AUSTRIA – Austria’s finance minister has announced the postponement of the pension bill, while unions have decided to postpone their strikes for the next few weeks.

Speaking on Austrian television programme “Pressestunde” finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser said that the government would be unable to meet its target of passing the pension bill on June 4, and said that instead it was aiming for before 18 June.

The decision does not come as a surprise. The Freedom Party had been believed to be attempting to delay the bill. Last week Freedom Party social security secretary Ursula Haubner refused to commit to the original date of June 4, reportedly saying: “The quality of the package has to be right, not the date.”

At the same time, the Austrian Association of Unions, OeGB, voted this week to postpone strike action next Tuesday and over the coming weeks while negotiations with the government over the pensions reform continue.

The Austrian government has watered down its original pension reform proposals following public criticism and pressure from the unions. At the beginning of the month tens of thousands of Austrians took to the streets to demonstrate against the reforms.

Reforms include a gradual increase in the age of retirement, a reduction in the rate of contribution, penalties imposed for those who retire early and bonuses for those who retire later. At the end of April the government agreed that the reforms would be introduced on a more gradual basis. Further dramatic concessions look unlikely, however.