ITALY- A row has erupted between the government and the railway industry over a tax-free bonus for pension age employees who decide continue to work.

Welfare minister Roberto Maroni has criticised the industry for trying to exclude some of its workers from the monthly payment.

Maroni, one of the architects of the pension reform passed in July, has disputed an internal communication by the partly state-owned Ferrovie dello Stato in which FS allegedly said the tax-free perk was would not apply to some employees.

The reforms had settled that private sector workers with 35 years of contributions aged 57 could apply to work longer – and that employers are not allowed to turn them down. Rail workers would be eligible as the railways have been partially privatised.

The minister was quoted as saying the alleged decision was “incomprehensible and unacceptable” and that FS was breaching workers’ rights.

A government spokesman told IPE: “The minister has made it clear that no worker category must be exempted from the bonus.” FS was not contactable.

The tax-free bonus, commonly known as “super–bonus”, was the first aspect of the pension reform to be implemented.

A few days ago Maroni hailed the bonus “a great success” commenting on estimates published by the welfare ministry which fixed the number of applications for the tax-free bonus at 31,381.