POLAND - The ministry of labour and social policy has presented a draft law on the delivery of ‘bridging pensions', a new element of the Polish pension system intended to eliminate the early retirement benefits that are still available to a large number of people.

Unveiling the law, labour minister Jolanta Fedak and pensions minister Agnieszka Chlon-Dominczak said it met both the government's requirement to lower the costs of the pension system and those of the trade unions ensuring social privileges be retained for certain groups of individuals.

The draft foresees the provision of bridging pensions to a limited number of occupational groups as they will provide a temporary pre-retirement benefit for people who, in particular, work in difficult labour conditions or whose jobs have a special characteristics.

More specifically, those individuals fitting certain early retirement criteria will be able to receive a bridging pension until they reach the statutory pension age of 60 for women and 65 for men, and will in turn replace the option of early retirement at the age of 55 for women and 60 for men.

In general, medical conditions are the key criterion used to classify jobs as being entitled for bridge pension so the list has been prepared with the co-operation of medical advisers, ministers said.

It is estimated that some 190,000 people would qualify as bridge pensioners and 1.3 million people qualify for early retirement as the list of people who would be eligible include welders, divers, pilots, train supervisors and teachers who work with teenagers in juvenile detention centres.

The overall cost to the budget is expected to be around PLN600m (€180m) a year as the cost of early retirement is estimated at PLN20bn annually.

The cabinet will discuss the proposed bill in September and Fedak told journalists she did not expect the proposal to change.

However, several trade unions have already stated they are not fully satisfied with the draft and have indicated if the bill was not modified they would call strikes and organise demonstrations.

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