THE GOVERNMENTS’ MONSTROSITY WILL NOT PASS
DECENT PUBLIC HEALTHCARE AND PENSIONS FOR ALL
The governments’ plan for the insurance system is a deeply unpopular bill which demolishes what social character was left in the insurance system, converts insurance into an individuals’ obligation, brutally cuts pensions and consolidates the insured in poverty. The measures it includes are the starting point of the negotiations with the creditors’ quartet. If this is the starting point we can imagine how much worse the conclusion will be…
It is a brutal neoliberal reform and a worthy continuation of the policies of ND and PASOK.
The basic philosophy of the bill is that everyone is responsible for their own insurance. If you have spent periods in unemployment or doing undeclared or flexible work… bad luck! Maybe at some point, at a very old age you get a pension of 300 Euros.
The bill builds upon the reactionary framework set by all the previous governments which remains intact (Loverdos-Koutroumanis law etc)
It will lead – especially – young workers to undeclared work and will open the way for private insurance companies as in the current context of long-term unemployment and flexible labor nobody can hope to complete 40 years of insurance in order to get a small pension!
WHAT THE BILL INCLUDES
A. CONSOLIDATION IN POVERTY
1. It proposes reductions to main and supplementary pensions of 15-30% for the large majority of the insured and those who have already retired. The reduction comes from a) the much lower base of calculation of the “pensionable earnings” as they are calculated on the basis of the total insurance life. b) the lower “replacement rate” which falls to 46% (from 70% and 90% in the past) for the “proportional pension” for 40 years of work. c) the abolition of all funds and their specific provisions. The bill abolishes the minimum pension. Even the measly allowance of 284 Euros (gross pay) is not given whole before the completion of 67 years (until then it is slashed by 6% a year) and is slashed by 25% even for people with a disability rate over 67%! For the already retired the 13th and 14th pensions are abolished – and the government has the audacity to say that it does not reduce pensions.
2. Cuts to supplementary pensions. Cuts will start at 8% and reach between 15% and 30% in some cases so that approximately 200 million Euros are directly saved. In the future supplementary pensions will be calculated based on “demographic data” and “life expectancy” hence they will be decreased even more. Cutback and abolishment of the EKAS. Higher income criteria are adopted as a result of which it is lost for 70,000 poor pensioners so that 223 million Euros are saved until its’ final abolition in 2019. Large additional cuts to pensions in the public sector. Reductions up to 40% to public dividends so that expenditure is cut by 146 million Euros. Reductions between 10% and 15% to the new lump sum so that expenditure is reduced by 87 million euros.
B. INCREASE OF TOTAL YEARS OF WORK
3. The bill leads to increase of years that are required for retirement (abolishment of special regimes or retirement in the Public sector or favourable provision of several funds). It is not far from reality that teachers in kindergarten classes will be 70 years old, whilst in the private sector, employees are forced to early retirements with extremely
C. ATTACK ON THE SELF-EMPLOYED, FARMERS AND EMPLOYEES WHO PROVIDE SERVICES
4. The bill is related to harsh measures against the employees who work under the regime of Bulletin of Provision of Services. The total social security contributions that they must pay account for 38.5% of their income! This is added to the onerous taxation (26% of their revenues). All these lead to a huge deterioration of living standards of the young scientists who work under the regime of Bulletin of Provision of Services and the self-employed. The farmers face the same problems, as their contributions will be tripled!
D. THE COST OF PENSION SYSTEM REFORM IS CALLED TO BE PAID BY THE WORKERS
5. The bill also calls for an increase in contributions for secondary pensions up to 1.5% (1% will be paid by the employers and 0.5% by the employees) in order to increase pension funds’ revenues up to €346 million. The employers sacrifice, in short-term, a minimum of the huge reduction of their contributions (down to 4.9%), applied by the previous Samaras’ government, in order to politically support the current government for passing pension system reform bill. By and large, the workers will pay the increase.
THE LIES OF THE GOVERNMENT DO NOT CONVINCE ANYONE!
The government accuses Samaras and Venizelos, the previous governments, of the huge deterioration of pension system conditions. The governors state that “the reform is necessary given that in 5 years we will be not be able to provide pensions” in the wake of “high pensions and great imbalances”, continuing a previous rhetoric, of ex-minister Pagkalos, which claimed that “it was the mentality, the attitude and the practices of all the people in Greece that has led to the bad performance of the Greek economy, the corruption, the bribery and the great spending of public money for personal use”. It is a common knowledge that pension funds went bankrupt by the spending of their reserves, during the last decades. The causes were the illegal loans, with the great support of the State, that banks were providing, even with negative interest rate, the €70 billion that were plundered, the €tens of billions that were lost by the haircut of the Greek State bonds that the pension funds were holding, and by the money of the pension funds that were used in pay-off previous debt and interest rates to IMF in 2015. The bad conditions of pension system were also caused by the huge unemployment rate, which creates and stimulates the capitalist crisis around the globe, by the contributions’ evasion of the employers, by the informal employment and shadow economy and by the Stage programs in both the private and public sector.
In this context, the government does not deal with any of these; it just attacks on the workers and young people by cutting the expenditures towards the pension system down to €1.8 billion, destroying their life.
Our needs and the interests of the working class are in complete contrast to the barbarian rationale of the capital, the IMF-EU-ECB-ESM and their governments. The social security, the care, the dignified pension are social rights. We fight to take back the wealth that we produce, which the faster it grows the more quickly it is concentrated in capital hands.
SHOULDN’T BE VOTED – FIGHT NOW
Our fight is for a public and decent pension scheme:
- SYRIZA-ANEL government’s policy should be defeated along with EU-ECB-ESM-IMF. Pension scheme is a human right, not a market product. Exclusively public pension scheme based on social needs, accessible to everyone with no pre-conditions.
- Minimum pension equal to basic salary. All cuts from 2009 in pensions and salaries to be banned. Give us back the 13th and 14th main and auxiliary pension. We say NO to the demolishment of current pension organisations.
- Retirement at the age of 60 for men and 55 for women, or after 30 years of employment. Retirement at the age of 55 for men and 50 for women for hazardous occupations. Significant reduction of unemployment is feasible only by reducing the retirement age.
- Full pension and healthcare cover for the unemployed and part-time employee. Ban every form of flexible and unsafe contracts.
- Employers and the state should pay for the pension cost of their employees, and the unemployed too. Ban the employee’s deduction for health services. Banks, employees and the State must return back to the Pension Organisations accounts the stolen money. Pension Organisations accounts should not participate in any form of gambling.
- We ask for protection of the self-employed and farmers’ pensions.
- Give equal pension and employment rights to the immigrants.
Our fight for a decent pension scheme is a fight against the capital, EU and IMF. The referendum experience showed that within the EU and the Eurozone limits, the memoranda can’t be defeated. Out of the Eurozone is the alternative way. Rupture with employers and investors terms, who basically aim for no pensions, to maximise their profit. Workers should take charge of the banks and the large companies to ensure that employers and the state pay their deductions instead of destroying people pensions. We shall win. Tsipras will end up like the former Minister of Pensions, Mr Giannitsis, who was banned from his Ministry back in 2003 after trying to impose a much lighter pension scheme reform.
ATHENS, JANUARY 2016
European governments continue adopting the hate campaign of extreme right against refugees and immigrants. EU-policies have resulted in many refugees being drowned in the Aegean sea and in building fences at EU’s frontiers. ANTARSYA denounces the authoritarian practice of the Dutch police that yesterday 23/1, the Dutch police arrested 10 women (among them a member of ANTARSYA) protesting peacefully against the provocative anti-refugee campaign of the far-right leader Geert Wilders.
Specifically, on Saturday 23/1, Wilders handed out fake pepper spray to women in the open market of Rotterdam’s popular suburb, Spijkenisse, as a defence-weapon in case of attack by male refugees. Exploiting the events of Cologne, Wilders aims at activating popular conservative reflexes, as refugee centers are set up hastily in villages, little towns and popular neighborhoods that have been particularly affected by the austerity policies of the Rutte-government.
In response to a spontaneous invitation for a protest siged by “Feminists for resistance-spray “, 10 women went to Spijkenisse, opened banners and shouted slogans against Wilder’s antimigrant campaign: “Wilders is a fascist, not a feminist”, “Refugees welcome” were the main slogans. Wilders’supporters attacked the 10 women with insults and obscene gestures.
The Dutch Police clearly sided with Wilders, by leaving his followers free to attack verbally the 10 women and finally by arresting the 10 women with allegations of non-display of their identity and breach of the public order. The 10 were taken to the police station, where they faced the miserable behavior of the police. They were put in isolation, faced insults and bullying, while in some cases, they were denied the provision of water, blanket and access to a lawyer. 9 of them were released after six hours, after getting a fine of several hundreds of Euros!
The blunt arrest of the 10 women, the repressive treatment and the tolerance for Wilders’ supporters aim at promoting racism in the Dutch society due to response to refugees’. This polarization benefits in different ways the entire range of the Dutch neoliberal political forces, and in particular Rutte’s government by leaving it undisturbed to promote its highly authoritarian neoliberal agenda.
Junior doctors across England are fed up! And they have every right to be so regarding the Tory government’s plans on NHS reformation and the new proposals for their new contracts. It’s not about their pay which, by the way, will be cut by up to 40% should these plans are imposed. It’s about saving NHS.
After last year’s cuts in Social Care which led to an increase in NHS patient deaths, the Ministry of Health of the newly elected Tory government is now attacking NHS staff, in this case blaming junior doctors for “messing up the NHS for their salaries”.
Is it them though or Jeremy Hunt and his government to be blamed for this utter disorder in NHS? The answer is obvious since it was the Tory government that decided 20 billion cuts last year, signing the major privatisation deal of 780 million, not the junior doctors.
Now, with fewer resources and less funding, they come to suggest a “24/7 service” of the NHS. As if NHS doesn’t provide emergency care 24/7, as if there are no doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, porters, radiographers and lab technicians on weekend, evening and night shifts providing continuous healthcare service for the public. All that staff and especially Junior Doctors (JD is a term used to separate them from the Consultants) work in many cases over the end of their day shifts, offering loads of unpaid service to make sure that patient safety is not jeopardised.
What do the new JD contracts involve?
- Safeguards monitoring doctors’ work hours are banned. These safeguards are established to ensure that doctors wouldn’t work continuously for too many hours, in order to avoid mistakes due to excess tiredness that could potentially cost a patient’s life. Removing these safeguards will result in a work overload of more than 70 hours a week on top of an already unacceptably long hour working schedule. In other words, it’s a matter of time to see exhausted doctors looking after patients and consequently poorer quality of care, higher error rate and patient safety being at risk! It’s absolute government hypocrisy to refer to the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) that clearly states the average week working hours to be less than 48, negotiating at the same time with the European Commission its’ ban.
- Removal of protection for maternity leave – Penalising doctors for taking time off. Maternity leave protection is banned, penalising the unnegotiable right of every human being to have a family. On top of that, doctors who work part-time to take care of their families or doctors who get involved in research to promote and improve current medical practice are penalised for doing so.
- Extend JD routine working hours to 10pm including Saturdays. At the moment, NHS staff that provides acute care works 24/7. The final pay is the sum of the basic salary plus the banding which is an additional pay for working during what is considered as unsocial hours, like weekends, bank holidays, nights etc. Extension of the routine working hours will mean, reduction to what is considered as unsocial hours leading to reduction of the banding pay which consists an essential part of the total salary. JDs expect a pay cut of 15-40%, especially those working during these unsocial hours. This will lead to further demoralisation of doctors who feel undervalued and less motivated to work in a health system that doesn’t reward their services.
- JDs are not well off, nor over-paid. Their starting salary is £22.600 per annum whilst the MPs basic salary is £74.000 for considerably fewer working hours per day. Furthermore, they are obliged to cover the cost of their progressing exams themselves, which could be up to thousands of pounds, on top of the huge student debts that they already had in order to cover the cost of their 5-6 years of studies.
- The fact that the British Medical Association (BMA) left the negotiation table is a lie since the government never intended to negotiate. In fact what they did was to announce the main terms, informing the BMA that only the finer points would be under negotiation. In response to this, the vast majority of more than 40.000 junior doctors voted in favour of taking industrial action. An overwhelming 98% of the balloting members voted YES to strike!
- Just one day after Jeremy Hunt announced the new contract terms, over 1600 doctors applied for documents needed to migrate abroad in search of better working conditions like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Such a development would result in critical reduction of stuff numbers in an over-stretched NHS, with longer waiting hours for GP appointments, surgeries and treatments.
The Junior Contracts plans will not just affect the junior doctors. It will affect each and every one of us who at some point will seek for medical care in the NHS either for us or for our beloved ones. The Junior Contracts plans are just a small sample of this government’s austerity policies for which the NHS is a burden against the “balance of the books” and they need to get rid of it without appreciating the importance of people’s health. It’s these policies we need to fight against, policies that derive from the most aggressive parts of UK’s capital, policies that are directed from the EU and are dramatically affecting people’s lives.
As Greek migrants living in the UK, we have already seen this happening in Greece. Similar or even tougher policies have been imposed on the Greek NHS under the Memoranda terms and leading in a massive influx of junior doctors to Europe including the UK. This dramatic loss of junior doctors had considerably negative impact to the society leading to a further overstretching of the healthcare services in Greece. Similarly, other junior scientists being affected from the recession and austerity policies such as job and salaries cuts migrated as well, depriving the country from it’s scientific workforce. All the previous have given us the experience and confidence to reject and demand the overthrow of those unjust NHS plans that the Tory government is about to impose. We will be joining the JDs fight; we will be chanting with them in the streets, that this IS NOT FAIR, NOT SAFE.
We fully support Junior Doctors’ struggle and we call all the Greek people who have migrated and live in the UK, the working class of Britain and the migrants to stand in solidarity with their struggle! We shall all stand with them at the picket lines and the following protests in London and all the other English cities that will be joining the fight. Their struggle is our struggle to SAVE OUR NHS!