From today's Financial Times
Germany's government-in-waiting is considering a proposal to increase the statutory retirement age to 67 from 65, in a move that, if agreed, could send a reform signal across Europe but would stir a backlash from welfare and pensioners' groups in Germany.
"Stir a backlash"? Lieber Gott
! There is some understatement!
What happened in Italy
the last time pension reform was attempted? General Strike
In 2003, Berlusconi's government
propose[d] raising the official retirement age by several years from 57 to 65 for men and to 60 for women.
In response, Italy's three major unions called for a general strike... which shut down most airline and train service, public transportation as well as schools. Even fans of one of Italy's most beloved pastimes, opera, were inconvenienced when Rome's famous La Scala opera house was closed due to the strike.
Berlusconi's first government was toppled in 1994, when his attempts to take on the issue were met with popular unrest.
The result: reform only at the margins. Pensions catastrophe still looms in Italy.
What happened in Austria
in 2003?General Strike
Key aims of the [proposed Austrian pensions] reforms:
- Raising the retirement age to 65 years; at present, most Austrian men retire at 59 and women at 57
- Slashing some pension payments by more than 30%, because the reforms would calculate the monthly sum by taking an average of contributions over 40 years and not only the 15 last, or most lucrative, years
of Austria's voters took to the streets in mass demonstations. The zeal of even the stoutest reform-minded politician must surely have quailed at that level turnout. It was the first General Strike in Austria since the Second World War.
The result? Reform only at the margins. Pensions catastrophe still looms in Austria.
What happened in Belgium
just this month at mooted pension reforms?General Strike
Belgian workers began their first general strike in more than a decade... disrupting schools, transport, government services and shops to protest against government plans to increase the retirement age.
The 24-hour strike halted the high-speed Eurostar service from London and the Thalys connection from Paris to Brussels, home to the European Commission headquarters and EU agencies.
The government wants to raise the retirement age to 60 years from 58 years, saying the country has to pay for its increasing and aging population and has support from its liberal socialist coalition partners for the proposal...
Strikers also picketed entrances to factories and offices, including a Ford car plant in Genk, east Belgium. Antwerp, one of Europe's biggest ports, was shut for business as dockers refused to work...
The result? It remains to be seen. A larger strike may follow shortly if the unions do not get their way.
Back in the Federal Republic of Germany, who knows what will happen?
One salient fact
to keep in mind:
General strikes are deemed unlawful in the Federal Republic. An exception to this principle is the case where, exercising the right of resistance enshrined in the Basic Law , a general strike is used as a means of upholding or restoring the law.
I would wager a large sum that a GeneralStreik
would be considered seriously by the parties of the left and their union paymasters. After all the talk about the European / Rhineland 'Social' 'Model', I am sure the rationalisation would be made that the strike was not illegal.
Rather it would be recast as 'justified resistance' to Muntefering's 'bloodsuckers' and 'capitalist 'locusts'
. The aim? To 'uphold' and 'restore' European norms.