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Pensioners brave downpours to protest outside treasury
HUNDREDS of Spanish State pensioners braved the freezing cold and rain this evening (Thursday) to demonstrate in front of the treasury building in Madrid over the 'stingy' annual increases that have left them gradually worse off.
Since 2012, the yearly January increases to their pensions have been just 0.25%, which is the legal minimum, but as living costs have risen in those six years, retirees are more hard-up now than they were before, meaning they consider these 'increases' to be, effectively, a reduction.
The passionate, if soaked, group carried banners accusing the government of 'robbing' them and demanding 'fair and dignified pensions', pointing out that their retirement income is 'not a charitable donation' but one they have saved up for all their working lives through their monthly Social Security payments.
Placards read: “We're not dead yet. We have to live on our pensions;” “Hands in the air, this is a hold-up;” and “Less talk, more action.”
“There needs to be more meetings with social agents – whenever there has been agreements in pensions, the Social Security pot has always fared well,” said representatives from the unions who helped organise the soggy demonstration.
“There are elderly widows out there whose pensions are so low they can't even afford to put the heating on.”
Julián Guitérrez of the Labourers' Commissions (CCOO), one of Spain's main unions, says increasing pensions in line with living costs is 'merely justice', and has called for the government's 'sustainability factor' linked to life expectancy to be abolished, since following it will mean that 'by the year 2050, pensioners will be earning 50% in real terms of what they do now'.
Dimas Delmazo of the General Workers' Union (UGT) says 'pensioners cannot carry on living off hand-outs' from family members and that the government was 'taking the mickey'.
He called for left-wing political parties – who hold a majority in Parliament, even though the reigning government is the right-wing PP – to agree on and push for 'firm political decisions' to enable the people of Spain to 'live in dignified conditions, with decent jobs and decent pensions'.
“If taxes have to be imposed to guarantee decent pensions, well, they'll just have to impose them,” Delmazo says, taking the same line as the socialists, or PSOE, who have called for banks and multi-national companies to be taxed more to fund social welfare programmes, including healthcare and education.
“In Spain there are more than 27 'layers' of income taxation, and whilst in the past, those who earned huge amounts would pay up to 65% and those who earned the least paid 13% on top of their personal allowances, nowadays the wealthiest pay 45% and the poorest pay 19%,” Delmazo reveals.
“And [treasury minister Cristóbal] Montoro's recent announcement about reducing taxes for the 'very elderly' to help them fund their care costs does not include around 63% of State pensioners.”
Protesting pensioners say electricity and gas have risen in price by far more than 0.25% per year, and point out that they have been the ones subsidising their children and grandchildren who are out of work or on low wages.
The latest demonstration is one of dozens taking place regularly around the country, with local pensioner communities staging protests outside their town halls two or three times a month.
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