Massive strikes continue to characterise
- strikes not impacting Air Malta directly
Pension reform has hit choppy waters in France and Austria with widespread
industrial action yesterday paralysing public transport and air travel
causing massive disruption to commuters and airline passengers.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Air Malta said that the strikes had no immediate
impact on the airlines flights. If the strikes persist there could
be an increased demand for seats on Air Malta flights that operate on
routes hit by the strikes.
Industrial action by Alitalia employees yesterday had no connection
to the French and Austrian strikes. The Italians were protesting over
a decision to reduce the number of cabin crew staff.
The French and Austrian governments in both countries are pushing for
reforms that will force employees to work longer for their pension.
Under reforms approved by the French cabinet last week, public sector
employees will be obliged to work for 40 years to qualify for a full
pension, up from 37.5 years at present.
Despite having reached agreement with the second largest trade union,
the French government is facing the wrath of employees because Prime
Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin wants the reforms approved by parliament
before the summer recess.
The Austrian government wants to oblige employees to work for 45 years
instead of the current 40 years to qualify for a full pension.
Both countries are trying to stave off unsustainable pension systems.
Falling birth rates are contributing to a declining workforce that in
turn has to support an ever-increasing ageing population.
Pensions reform is a Europe-wide issue and although pensions do not
fall within the remit of the European Union competencies, the Commission
has urged member states to undertake reforms.
The French and Austrian reforms aim to encourage employees to retire
at a later age thus increasing the effective retiring age. Although
the retiring age in most EU countries is 65 years most Europeans retire
well before. One of the recommendations made in the joint report issued
by the EU Commission and the Council is to increase the effective retiring
age by three years.
Apart from being a public finance issue, pensions reform is also considered
to be essential for sustained economic growth throughout the European
Pensions reform in Malta
Malta is not immune to the demographic pressures that
are instigating the need to reform pensions throughout the European
However, government has no national strategy for reform yet despite
a general consensus that something must be done.
The strong words mouthed by Finance Minister John Dalli in an interview
with The Times soon after the 12 April election about the urgent reforms
required in the pensions system have not yet resulted in concrete action.
The National Welfare Commission has to date not produced any results
prompting Minister Dalli to exclaim that the country has wasted five
In an interview with our sister publication MaltaToday, on 25 May, Social
Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi said that "within a matter of weeks"
the NWC had to meet to "push the process forward."
Gonzi also said that he expected a blue print for reform "within
a few months."