Polish workers lock in lawmakers over pensions

Protesting plans to raise retirement age
By Pawel Sobczak
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 05/17/2012

WARSAW (Reuters) — Hundreds of Polish union members protesting against plans to raise the retirement age chained together barriers meant to keep them out of Parliament on Friday, in order to lock lawmakers in.

"We will decide when they will leave (the Parliament)," Solidarity trade union leader Piotr Duda said as several hundred protesters, many waving flags emblazoned with the union's logo, surrounded the parliament building.

"At least for once we will decide something instead of them," Duda said.

The protesters vowed to block legislators from leaving Parliament after they voted to raise the retirement age as part of the government's efforts to put the public finances on a more sustainable path.

The proposal has sparked some of the biggest protests in recent years led by Solidarity, which is closely allied to the rightist opposition.

Under the reform, men and women eventually will retire at age 67 instead of 65 for men and 60 for women. Workers will be able to receive early partial pensions as part of a compromise within the governing coalition.

The bill, passed by a 268-185 margin, is expected to be cleared by the president.

The controversy over the pension reform and several high-profile stumbles sapped the popularity of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party, which sank to record lows months after winning an unprecedented second consecutive term late last year.

Undeterred, Tusk is expected to win legislative backing later on Friday for the reduction of pension privileges for uniformed services.

The government has argued the moves will prepare Poland's finances for a demographic shift leaving fewer workers to collect funds for a growing number of retirees under the country's pay-as-you-go state pension system.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland's main opposition, rightist party Law and Justice, vowed to ask the constitutional tribunal to reject the pension reform.

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