THE SENSE of entitlement of our country’s public employees knows no bounds, as the current dispute of their unions with the ministry of finance over pensions has, not for the first time, illustrated. They act as if their privileged treatment, in relation to the rest of the working population, is an inalienable right, written in stone. This is primarily because the political system never dares stand up to the public sector unions for fear of losing votes, thus feeding their arrogance.
The dispute centres on the government’s decision to change the pension scheme, for public sector workers hired after 2013, by rationalising it and introducing the concept of worker’s monthly contribution, which did not exist in the public sector. All public sector unions are resisting the change and have been considering ‘dynamic measures’ as a way of pressuring the government to scrap its decision and revert to the old regime.
Speaking about the issue on Trito radio on Friday, the head of the secondary teachers’ union had the audacity at one point to say that public employees’ pensions – because of cuts, the new calculation method, or both – would not allow them a ‘dignified’ retirement. Even the presenter was shocked by the selfishness of the union boss, asking him whether he thought the majority of retirees that received much lower pensions than public employees deserved an undignified life in retirement?
His response was that everyone deserved a dignified retirement, not going into the details of how this could be achieved or whether his union would be prepared to take dynamic measures for it. The reality is that the public sector aristocracy has never given a hoot about the private sector workers, fully aware that state cannot afford to pay everyone the unjustifiably high pensions enjoyed by public employees, unless it wants to bankrupt itself.
Nobody ever addresses the trade-off of having a public employee enjoying a host of privileges which apart from being unheard of for workers in the real economy, deprive the state of funds for making the lives of the while population better. Until the introduction of Gesy, public employees were the only highly-paid workers entitled to free healthcare without contributing a cent. Even after the pension cuts imposed by the government in 2013, which have been challenged in the courts, they still received by far the highest pensions, two to three times as high as other private sector retirees and much higher than the average wage.
It is not a dignified retirement these people are defending but their provocative privileges and the special treatment by the state which makes a complete mockery of idea that our state treats all citizens equally.