Unions try again for flexible retirement

Trade unionists have been busy collecting signatures again Keystone

The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions has handed in a people's initiative to the federal authorities calling for flexible retirement from the age of 62.

This content was published on March 28, 2006 - 18:35

More than 107,000 signatures were collected in nine months for the initiative, which when verified, will result in another nationwide vote on the pensions issue.

The electorate turned down two previous initiatives in November 2000, mainly over fears of spiralling costs.

The French-speaking part of the country and canton Bern each provided a quarter of the necessary signatures, while 10,000 came from the southern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

Paul Rechsteiner, president of the trade union federation, said the latest proposal was "a new step towards success."

The retirement age at present stands at 65 for men, with women entitled to draw an old-age pension from 64.

But union officials say that currently only two-thirds of men over the age of 62 and less than one in two women of the same age have paid jobs.

The text of the unions' initiative aims for the introduction of retirement from the age of 62 with a full basic pension for people with a paid job.

Extra costs

Colette Nova, a specialist in social insurances at the federation, estimates that extra costs for the taxpayer would be between SFr720 million ($553.8 million) and SFr1.15 billion a year, depending on when people actually retired.

The two similar initiatives had involved extra costs of an estimated SFr2 billion a year.

Debate over pensions in Switzerland has been heated, with the government arguing that the basic pension scheme will eventually collapse as a result of the ageing population.

As a measure to reform and put the scheme on a more healthy footing, Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin has even suggested raising the retirement age to 67, an idea which was scorned by the unions.

When launching the initiative in June last year, the federation said that the electorate's rejection of a pension revision plan in May 2004 "had shown clearly that the vast majority of Swiss did not want any cuts to their pension entitlement or increase in the retirement age, but a social solution allowing a flexible retirement age".

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The retirement age for men currently stands at 65, while women are elntitled to an old-age pension from the age of 64.

The state pension scheme was introduced in 1948. It's funded by contributions from employers, employees and the state.

There have been concerns over the financing of the system over the past few years, as the number of beneficiaries is increasing while the number of people paying towards the scheme is on the decrase.

Swiss voters have rejected three previous proposals for a flexible retirement age in the past ten years.

Since 1978 another four proposals to amend the old age pension scheme were also thrown out at the ballot box.

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