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Austria : From heavy work to emergency assistance: Social Committee advises on a wide range of topics.

In the last part of today's meeting of the Social Committee of the National Council a broad range of topics was discussed on the basis of requests from the opposition. In addition to the demand for an adaptation of the criteria for heavy work, it was about volunteer work, reduced unemployment insurance contributions, training, the promotion of durable and repairable products as well as the emergency assistance. The motions were eventually postponed, although the governing parties considered a number of opposition demands critical.

Opposition with initiatives on heavy work

The committee had four initiatives on heavy labor. For example, the SPO advocates assessing nighttime work in a cumulative manner in the future to assess various burdens such as particular noise, heat, cold, vibration, the wearing of respiratory protection equipment or particularly strenuous screen work. In addition, SPO MP Dietmar Keck does not see that workers who have done night and hard labor for decades have pension discounts of 4.2% per annum up to a maximum of 13.8% when they reach the age of 57 benefit from a special pension. Finally, the employer for night-time work would pay additional pension contributions. The Parliamentary Club NOW criticizes the fact that the calculation of the calorie consumption relevant for heavy labor is based on the 8-hour-day and 12-hour-days are not considered.

Another approach is taken by NEOS. They are in favor of offering retraining services to workers working in health-impairing occupations in good time. Gerald Loacker is convinced that this will help prevent future health problems that lead to a disability or occupational disability pension and also reduce the number of people receiving a long-term work pension. Current labor market policy instruments for older workers start much too late. The demand for a change of occupation, however, considers SPO deputy Keck to be illusory. If someone has done night heavy labor for decades, he does not get another job, he believes. Rather, Keck calls for a fair solution for employees who do night heavy work. For example, anyone who is exposed to extreme heat for three hours at night and then two hours of extreme noise is not covered by the Night Workers' Law, because none of the special burdens prevail.

Tanja Graf (OVP) holds little from legal measures. One must evaluate the system, which privileges individual groups, as a whole, she said. It also misses a calculation of the financial impact of the applications. To the statement of Daniela Holzinger-Vogtenhuber (NOW) that she had taken up a claim of the OAAB and the FCG union with her application, Graf noted that not every political demand was suitable for a bill.

On the part of NEOS, Gerald Loacker emphasized that the SP and NOW proposals aimed at allowing individual employees to retire earlier and with more money. With an earlier retirement age, however, one set an incentive for those affected to continue to stay in a health-shameful occupation, instead of changing it. A rethink could, in his opinion, contribute to a social security commitment to provide a risk reserve for impending invalidity pensions.

Werner Neubauer (FPO) pointed out that a previous retirement must also be financed. He expects additional costs of between 70 and 80 million if the discounts for special leave recipients are removed. In addition, a further improvement of special pensioners would be in his view a difference in treatment. He wanted to look again at the request of the SPO but he justified his adjournment. The other heavy labor initiatives were also put on hold by the coalition parties.

For the second time on the agenda was an application submitted by the SPO for better social security coverage of volunteers. In concrete terms, it seeks to grant employees who are members of a volunteer fire department, a civil protection organization or an ambulance service a right to release up to five working days per service year for disaster relief and to continue to pay their salaries during this period. The costs incurred by the employer are to be covered by the disaster fund. Twice, the SP has already introduced a deadline application in the National Council, but it could not achieve a change of mind in the coalition parties.

The current system works well, he sees no need for a legal change, affirmed Norbert Sieber (OVP). Especially since the good image of volunteers is based heavily on the principle of voluntariness. He and his group colleague Klaus Lindinger also fear disadvantages for volunteers in professional life, should they be granted a legal right to free days. According to Sieber, however, it was necessary to check the different regulations in the individual federal states, and in this sense he requested that the application be postponed again.

SP social spokesman Josef Muchitsch pointed out that the volunteer fire brigades had reached their limits. The chief firefighter commander also pointed this out. It also needs sufficient volunteers in the future. Dietmar Keck (SPO) emphasized that the exemption is intended exclusively for disaster relief and that volunteers also help to make other workers come to work.

NEOS MEP Gerald Loacker advocates adapting the legislation on unemployment insurance contributions. He does not see that the reduced contribution rates aimed at low earners benefit even those who have a high total income due to several employment relationships. Even well-paid self-employed, who would choose the lowest level of contributions to voluntary unemployment insurance, would benefit from the reduction in contributions. In order to achieve more justice, Loacker argues in both cases for a subsequent total income calculation including premium adjustment.

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Publication:Mena Report
Date:Feb 20, 2019
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