AUSTRIA - 2,600 members of Austrian pensionskassen have hired a lawyer to file a complaint with the constitutional court over the question of ownership of pension fund assets.

The disgruntled members - some of whom have seen pension cuts of around 20% in the wake of the financial crisis  - want the right to withdraw their individual pension assets from the pensionskassen "before nothing is left", Pekabe, the pension fund member interest group, announced in Vienna today.

Austrian pension funds suffered losses of 13% in 2008 while some contracts still contain calculation rates of 5.5% or 7.5% - a level which has not be achieved in the long-term. (See earlier IPE-story: Austrian system ‘riskiest' by comparison)

"The Austrian lawmakers have made half of all Austrians prisoners by introducing the so-called ‘second pillar'," argued lawyer Alfred Noll.

He suggested pension benefits were the property of the beneficiary yet in Austria pensionskassen members can neither ensure the level of benefits paid out nor decide individually whether or not to leave the money in the fund.

Noll even described the situation as promoting "immoral contracts" which bound the beneficiaries because they have almost no ability to get out.

The petition will be brought to the constitutional court on May 29.

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