Opposition gears up to challenge government on pension decision

Socialists believe not compensating retirees for blowout in inflation is unconstitutional

Moves are afoot by the opposition and labor unions to force the government to backtrack on its decision not to top up state pensions to compensate for the loss of purchasing power arising from a rate of inflation that exceeded the official forecast for the year.

The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday reneged on an electoral pledge to compensate retirees for the loss of purchasing power, but argued that meeting this year’s government deficit target had to come first.

The head of the main opposition Socialist Party, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, on Monday reiterated his group’s intention of taking the matter to the Constitutional Court. Other leftist parties, grouped under the Plural Left electoral platform, also back this proposal.

“We are looking at the unconstitutionality of this measure, but in my opinion not topping up pensions is unconstitutional at the moment it is adopted because pensions are calculated on a daily basis and you can’t say at the end of the year that they’re not going to be topped up,” Rubalcaba said.

The previous day the CCOO labor union said it would ask the ombudsman, Soledad Becerril, to appeal the decision with the Constitutional Court. The UGT union on Monday also announced it would set up a campaign to advise pensioners how to file individual complaints with the Social Security system.

Article 48 of the General Law of Social Security stipulates that pensioners should be compensated for the difference between the government’s official inflation target and the actual figure. The target was one percent, while the consumer price index was up an annual 2.9 percent in November, the reference month used to determine whether compensation is due or not.

The government would have had to pay pensioners a further four billion euros to comply with Article 48, which would have scuppered its efforts to reduce the public deficit to 6.3 percent of GDP this year.

Rajoy said Sunday that the “decision on pensions was imposed by reality not Brussels,” while the secretary general of the ruling Popular Party (PP), María Dolores de Cospedal, attacked the Socialists for having frozen pensions in 2011 when they were in power.

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