AUSTRIA – The Freedom Party looks set to try and delay the pension reform bill of June 4, following a roundtable discussion with the social partners and Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel yesterday.

At yesterday’s round table, Freedom Party social security secretary Ursula Haubner is reported to have said that “key elements in the pension plans have to be changed”. The People’s Party has insisted that the pensions bill will be passed on June 4, but the Freedom Party is believed to be attempting to delay the process. Yesterday Haubner refused to commit to the date, reportedly saying: “The quality of the package has to be right, not the date.”

Schuessel, of the conservative People’s Party, called the roundtable “an encouraging beginning”, but OeGB union leader, Fritz Verzetnitsch was less enthused. “Absolutely no substantial changes have been made.” The OeGB organised the May 6 strike which saw tens of thousands of Austrians take to the streets in protest, on the grounds that the reform would mean people working longer and having their pensions cut.

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.

Schuessel has faced ongoing criticism about the overhaul to the pensions system, and recently agreed to ‘water down’ the proposals so that they would be introduced more gradually, but, however, Schuessel says the key points of reform will not be amended.