December 2, 2011

ITALY: Cross-party Protests over Parliamentary Pension Cuts

ROME, Italy / Corriere della Serra / Italian Life / December 1, 2011

One ploy – resign before rules are changed. Or take the state to court. Mazzocchi (PDL) says appeal is winnable: “You don’t change the rules halfway through the game”

ROME – “I don’t give a monkey’s about my pension but the change should start from 1945. The people who are proposing cuts have been in Parliament for decades”. A cross-party revolt is under way over cuts to parliamentarians’ pensions, or “lifetime allowances”. At the Chamber of Deputies bar, Massimo Calearo is giving voice to his fellow deputies’ outrage. Meanwhile Italy of Values’ (IDV) Antonio Borghesi rows against the flow of protest: “This reform is more of a penknife than a cleaver and in the short term it could cost taxpayers more”. That’s right. The IDV deputy group leader reckons that the Chamber’s contributions will cost about €25 million “paid by Parliament”.

The pension haircut has yet to be approved but Italy’s “Caste” is up in arms. The parliamentarians who are most indignant at Gianfranco Fini and Renato Schifani’s decision to raise the pension age and switch to the contributory system are the ones who were also reluctant to accept a technocratic government. That means former National Alliance and Forza Italia veterans. But the Democratic Party (PD) is also in ferment. Dario Franceschini warned parliamentarians against resigning to avoid postponement of their pensions. “If anyone is thinking of pulling a fast one, the Chamber just needs to reject the resignation”.

But a mass exodus from Parliament was the issue of the day in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Former PD deputy Renzo Lusetti, now with the Christian Democrat UDC, said: “I’m not going to do it but at 53, I would be better off quitting right now, otherwise I’ll get the lifetime allowance when I’m 60”. Others are looking at ways of appealing. Serjeant-at-arms Antonio Mazzocchi (photo above), a lawyer and PDL deputy, thinks they stand a good chance of winning: “If they change the rules during the game and deputies take the state to court, I think they could win”. At 11.30 am, the issue will be discussed by the serjeants-at-arms and social security experts from the parties, including Cazzola (PDL), Gnecchi (PD) and Galletti (UDC). A battle royal looms. Serjeant-at-arms Gabriele Albonetti (PD) takes another view: “Mazzocchi is speaking for himself. He agreed at the meeting with Fini, Schifani and minister Fornero. Raising the age and the contributory system are done deals. There’s no going back”.

Alessandra Mussolini (PDL) is prepared to make sacrifices if the members of the Monti government first “provide information on their conflicts of interest”. Francesco Boccia (PD) was exercised about “discrimination” against young people: “We are furious. Fini and Schifani shouldn’t think they can carry out this operation on the backs of future generations”. Long-serving deputies are worried, as are above all newly elected members, whose lifetime allowances are set to shrink under the contributory system. 

Former People and Territory (PET) deputy Mario Pepe was incandescent: “Starving deputies and senators is making Parliament a slave to the strong powers”. “Starving”, deputy? “Yes because if you take away the lifetime allowance from someone like [former Communist Refoundation party secretary Fausto – Trans.] Bertinotti, what has he got left?” Fighting talk, but you get the idea.

Over in the Senate, some diehards are refusing to lie down. A meeting of group leaders that was supposed to be brief lasted for two and a half hours, so high were tempers running over the lifetime allowances. Luigi Lusi (PD) attacked the social security “jungle” and proposed a special fund for “all constitutional bodies”, which would include ministers and junior ministers as well as parliamentarians.
Monica Guerzoni
01 dicembre 2011English translation by Giles

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