Opposition parties hint at general strike to support vote of confidence over retirement age plans
Government emphasised its willingness to talk with labour market organisations
Exceptionally serious-looking opposition leaders announced on Thursday that they are to put forward a Parliamentary interpellation over the government’s plan to raise the retirement age from 63 to 65. The vote of confidence is to be submitted on Friday of next week.
Jutta Urpilainen, the leader of the Social Democrats, declared that the plan is in conflict with the contract society, saying that the government’s proposal is not the right solution to the current financial problems.
Urpilainen noted that the opposition would appreciate support from the employee organisations, but it would be up to them to use their discretion in deciding on their potential support measures.
The leader of the Left Alliance parliamentary group, Annika Lapintie, said that she would not rule out even a general strike as a way to support the interpellation.
True Finns chairman Timo Soini suspected that ”the men with silk ties” have been hatching this plan for a long time.
Soini said that a decision like this is not reached in a couple of days. ”Brute-force politics are being made under the guise of recession”, Soini charged.
The opposition parties did not object to having people stay at work for a longer time as such, but said that they did not accept the methods suggested by the government.
The issue was brought up even in the Parliament's question-time on Thursday, in which Minister for Foreign Affairs Paavo Väyrynen deputised for Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who was participating in the Nordic premiers’ Globalisation Forum in Iceland.
Even other ministers closely connected to the matter at hand were absent. Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen was on vacation and Minister of Social Affairs and Health Liisa Hyssälä was attending the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion, which is being held in Moscow from February 26th to 27th.
Minister Väyrynen assured the MPs as well as the angry trade unions that the government would negotiate the policy decision with trade unions and other interest groups. He stressed repeatedly that so far the government has made only a decision-in-principle on the issue.
”The negotiations will be launched now, but the time for responses will come later”, Väyrynen noted.
Liisa Jaakonsaari (SDP) said that this is the worst possible moment to start to use coercion and cost-cutting measures. She blamed the government for arrogance and secretive behaviour, saying that the plan has given a face to the government’s restructuring measures.
Minister Väyrynen did not see the decision as a cost-cutting measure, but asked MPs to get used to negative decisions as well.
Minister of Trade and Industry Mauri Pekkarinen (Centre) hastened to support Väyrynen, saying that all details of the decision are still open. However, he noted further that ”we are not going to cope with this [the sustainability gap] unless the input of work is increased”.
The ministers pointed out that the decision on the retirement age is connected to several other issues relating to part-time and disability pensions, among others.
Martti Korhonen of the Left Alliance claimed that the government had destroyed the contract society in its two-day negotiations.
Jutta Urpilainen also spoke in question-time, saying that the decision in question is purely a cost-cutting measure aimed at pensioners. She asked the government to admit their mistake.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Government decides on gradual raising of minimum age for old-age pension to 65 (25.2.2009)
Organised labour angered by government decision on old-age pensions (26.2.2009)
Report calls for nearly 5-year increase in retirement age (23.1.2009)
10,000 Finns will reach retirement age in September (8.9.2008)
Warning! Painful Recovery Ahead (24.2.2009)