Pensioners demand back-pay, raises

Pensioners demand back-pay, raises

By Sarah Carr
First Published: November 3, 2008

CAIRO: Some 250 pensioners protested outside the National Organization for Social Insurance on Monday against what they described as the failure of the Ministry of Social Solidarity to implement a court ruling which increased their financial entitlements.

The protest was organized by the Federation of Pension-Holders, a body formed in August 2008 to represent pensioner’s interests.

Activist Hamdy Hussein explained that the federation was formed in the months following the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling, issued in June 2008.

“Under the law, those aged under 60 have the same rights as those above the age of 60, and yet a distinction was made in the payment of a 5 percent increase, which was not paid to those under 60 at all, and increased gradually until the full 5 percent was paid to those aged 60 and over,” Hussein told Daily News Egypt.

“The Constitutional Court found for us that those on a pension under 60 had equal rights to those over 60 — because the Constitution and international human rights instruments state that all citizens are equal under the law,” he continued.

“Two to three months ago the minister began to give us the money we are entitled to following the judgment. However, we have not received the backdated payments we are entitled to under the judgment.”

On June 7, 2008, Akhbar Al-Youm reported statements by the head of the National Organization for Social Insurance Mohamed Talaat Ismail according to which pensioners under the age of 60 would receive the revised pension amounts within three weeks.

The article also stated that pensioners who have retired five years ago or more would be entitled to five years worth of backdated payments.

In August 2008, however, Al-Badeel quoted Amer Habib — deputy head of the insurance division within the Ministry of Finance — as saying that back-payments would not be made until an opinion had been issued by a related division in the People’s Assembly on whether the Constitutional Court judgment has retroactive effect.

During the demonstration protestors called for the resignation of Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali.

In a press statement, the federation blames the Ministry of Finance’s involvement in pension affairs for the loss of pensioner’s rights.

“The reason why previous court judgments have been implemented [but not the June 2007 ruling] goes back to the independence of the Ministry of [Social Solidarity] from the Ministry of Finance,” the statement reads.

“The aim of incorporating the Ministry of [Social Solidarity] coffers into the Ministry of Finance is the expropriation of pensioners’ money and their deprivation of their most basic rights.”

The Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to Daily News Egypt’s questions by press time.

The federation is calling for the separation of the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s funds from the Ministry of Finance and the payment of an annual raise in line with increases in prices.

It is also demanding that pensioners receive the same raises as state-employees, who they say receive a higher raise despite the fact that “pensioners are the priority because they only have their tiny pensions to survive on.”

Pensioners also say that they are being made to pay for hospital treatment despite being members of the health insurance scheme, which theoretically covers roughly 30 percent of Egypt’s population, and entitles them to free health treatment.

“I went in for an operation in the health insurance hospital in Nasr City and was told that I’d have to pay LE 150 for a bed because there were no beds available otherwise,” Yosry Boshra told Daily News Egypt.

“What could I do, I had to pay,” he continued.

Hussein says that pensioners are angry at what they perceive as abandonment by the state.

“Egypt was built on the shoulders of these pensioners. It is their right when they stop working to be able to live, to receive medical treatment.”

“They want to feel that Egypt has done something for them, and not just taken from them.”

This was echoed by one pensioner at the demonstration.

“I take LE 400 per month after 35 years of work as a driver,” he said.

“We’re the ones who fought in the 67 and 73 wars…we’re the ones who built the economy. Is this our reward in the end?”

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