Illustrative photo – Extraordinary meeting of the House of Representatives on the proposal to limit the extraordinary June valorization of pensions, February 28, 2023, Prague. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL).
Prague – Today, after extensive obstructions by the opposition, the government coalition pushed through an amendment to the Pension Act, which provides for a lower extraordinary pension valuation in June. The lower rate of pension growth promoted by the government is primarily intended to save money from the state budget this year and in the years to come. According to the government amendments, the average monthly pension will increase by 760 crowns instead of the expected 1,770 crowns. According to President Miloš Zeman, the opposition capitulated when it finally did not prevent the coalition from pushing for a lower valuation of pensions. He considers the reduction of valorization itself to be a mistake of the government's policy. He said this in an interview for the Parlamentní listy server.
Labor Minister Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) has repeatedly said that if the law fails to be changed and pensions are increased according to the current regulation, this would mean a total expenditure of around 600 billion crowns in the coming years. If the law goes into effect, it will probably end up in the Constitutional Court. However, it must first be approved by the Senate and signed by the newly elected President Petr Pavel, who wants to speak about the reduction of pension valuation only after his inauguration. The inauguration ceremony will be on Thursday, March 9.
The opposition clubs ANO and SPD have made no secret of the fact that they want to block the adoption of the change or at least make it as difficult as possible. The negotiations were accompanied by long obstructionist speeches and procedural proposals. Over 300 amendments were submitted to the law. The opposition MPs mainly proposed that the pensioners should receive an increase of roughly one thousand more against the government's proposal. In the debate, they criticized the proposal mainly as impermissible retroactivity. They also questioned the fact that the government is enforcing the law in an abbreviated hearing in a state of legislative emergency. According to them, there was no reason for it.
They accused the government of having to know about the problem and the imminent development of inflation. On the contrary, Minister Jurečka argued that the decisive impulse for the cabinet to present the proposal came on February 10 this year, when the Czech Statistical Office published information on January inflation.
“I consider it a mistake of the opposition that they did not prevent it (the approval of a lower valuation),” Zeman told Parliamentary Papers in response to the approval of the amendment to the pension law. He repeated that a state that takes away money from pensioners is not a good state. He regrets that the opposition did not complete the obstruction until March 22, when the government needs to push through the reduction in order to apply it. According to Zeman, the opposition “capitulated and thus condemned pensioners to a certain loss of standard of living”. Zeman's mandate ends on March 8, and a day later the new president Petr Pavel will take over.
In January, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the average old-age pension was 19,438 crowns. Even when the new rule for the June valuation comes into effect, according to the ministry, it will exceed CZK 20,000.
The meeting lasted over 97 hours, of which roughly 72 hours were occupied by the debate of MPs and ministers. The negotiations lasted well into the night and the MPs spent the night in their offices and rushed to the meeting hall for the vote.
The amendment was approved before noon today. “It is, of course, the success of the government coalition, because it pushed for this change,” Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09) told journalists. “Even though the opposition did their best, they failed to reverse the result,” she added. On the other hand, SPD chairman Tomio Okamura repeatedly said that the government had robbed almost three million pensioners. The president of the ANO club, Alena Schillerová, called the law shameful. She also said that she is proud of the fact that the opposition has used all obstruction options.
The YES movement now hopes that the amendment will not pass the Senate. If the Senate were to approve it, ANO wants to turn to incoming President Pavel to veto it. If Pavel would still sign it, ANO intends to appeal to the Constitutional Court. The SPD has the same intention, which called on ANO to proceed together.