AUSTRIA – Vice chancellor Hubert Gorbach has called for laws regulating the employment of workers on Austrian Federal Railways to be changed in a bid to curb early retirement.

Gorbach, a member of the right-wing FPÖ, told the Austrian media yesterday that he was “completely unhappy” and “surprised” about the wave of early-retirement among railway employees.

He said the laws protecting railways employees from dismissal were “obsolete” and needed changing to keep the federal railways Österreichische Bundesbahnen, or ÖBB, competitive.

To meet his goal the government would need a two-thirds majority, involving the support of the opposition.

The social democrats, SPÖ, identified by Austrian press as a needed ally, told IPE they would not support Gorbach’s proposal.

Gorbach’s office was unavailable for comment.

Last October, Gorbach, also transport minister, and finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser opposed the option of early retirement for up to 6,000 railways workers of ÖBB.

Gorbach said then that early retirement should be “the last resort”.

Early retirement for people covered by the general social insurance law, ASVG, is being gradually abolished.

The ÖBB, however, is entitled by law to shift surplus workers into early retirement. ÖBB head Martin Huber recently said that since December some 577 railways employees had had no option but early retirement.

The ÖBB has put out a press release saying it would have definite early retirement figures in February, but contradicted “rumours” there would be 1,600 more cases.

“The ÖBB finds itself in a stage of reorganisation,” the release quoted Hubert as saying. It also stated: “Further early retirement cannot be ruled out.”