By: Sara Bertoncelj / Nova24tv
“This is the people’s initiative! This is the nation! It is time to unite and tell everyone that this is one nation! We do not care where you will get the money for our demands! Where did you get the 2.5 billion euros for corruption, where did you get 500 million for the recapitalisation of power plants, where did you get the money for the judges?” Pavle Rupar, leader of the civil initiative The Voice of Pensioners, shouted after those gathered at the protest booed the President of the Slovenian Federation of Pensioners Associations (Zveza društev upokojencev Slovenije – ZDUS), Janez Sušnik. Rupar warned that pensioners are being forced into poverty by design and bylaw, not least because the politicians have big appetites for the pensioners’ property.
On Tuesday, the people’s initiative The Voice of Pensioners of Slovenia organised a major nationwide protest of pensioners and all those who care about them. The organisers also invited Prime Minister Robert Golob, President of The Slovenian Federation of Pensioners Associations, Janez Sušnik, coalition MPs who like to attend similar rallies, and representatives of related people’s initiatives to attend the protest in question. However, both Prime Minister Golob and the President of the Federation refused the invitation. Rupar and Sušnik confronted each other on Monday night on the show Odmevi (Echoes), and the debate was quite heated.
The initiative demands that all pensions that are lower than one thousand euros be immediately increased by 20 percent, and those between 1,000 and 1,500 euros by 15 percent. The minimum pension (farmers’, disability), they argue, should be 750 euros, and adjusted for inflation at least every two months. They also demand that the average net pension should always amount to 75 percent of the average Slovenian salary. In addition, they demand an increase in the pension assessment percentage from 57.25 per cent of the average salary for a 24-year period to 68 per cent of the average salary for a 20-year period. They also demand that the 13th pension be enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia as a pensioner’s right, and that the compulsory annual allowance also be enshrined as a right, which should be equal to one pension. They also demand immediate regulation of access to general practitioners and that the state should take over compulsory supplementary health insurance if a pensioner’s pension is lower than 1,000 euros. The state should also cover the compulsory contribution for the national media outlet, Radio-Television Slovenia, for the pensioners, while young people should be given the opportunity to get a job and a place to live so that they can support their parents. Finally, they demand that dignity and respect for the elderly be restored and, above all, that their age, experience and achievements be valued, as they had created a basis for young people to build on.
The government is being wasteful in all areas, “but what about us pensioners?”
The first to address the crowd was Boris Klepej, who spoke about his own experience as a pensioner. He warned of the wasteful government of Robert Golob: “What about us? They want to tell us that we are too much of a cost to the state!” He pointed out that it was the pensioners who were the generation that stood at Roška and ensured that we now live in an independent Slovenia. “And now they are walking all over us. We do not deserve this! You are here today, old and worn out, but we will not give up! We want to live, not to barely get by. A decent pension is our right, not social assistance!” he warned.
Igor Črnoga echoed the demands of the people’s initiative, the Voice of Pensioners of Slovenia, adding, “We are demanding it, not begging for it! Sooner or later, they will accept us as equals among equals and establish a fair and human dialogue with us. We deserve it,” he stressed. Jožefina, a retired farmer, also told her story: “Slovenia is also its people, not just the beautiful nature.” But today, many pensioners live in dire need, she warned. They are afraid that high taxes will take away the roofs over their heads. “We don’t deserve this! We have worked hard to earn decent pensions,” she said, adding: “Today, we are here to tell young people that enough is enough! Today we are issuing a bill that is not too high. We ask for the support of all working citizens; you will end up in the same position. We demand a fair and efficient state and decent pensions for all.” She stressed that they will not give up until a fair system is put in place that also ensures decent pensions.
“Today is not about the left or the right, it is about us, the pensioners,” stressed Karl Senegačnik, who pointed out that they are living in a difficult time, when pensions no longer guarantee their survival. “We demand a change in legislation to harmonise the pensions,” he said, calling on the government to stop dividing the money as it sees fit. He also pointed out that the people who helped build the country we live in are now barely getting by in nursing homes. “Let’s stand together so that our money is distributed fairly,” he called on all citizens, and invited everyone, on behalf of all pensioners, to join in future rallies to help bring about fair pensions. “We will persevere with our demands,” he was adamant.
Having to rely on social services to ensure heating
Igor Mejavšek said that under the government of Janez Janša, they got a lot of money, but now he needs social welfare to get money for heating. He explained that he receives a pension of 457 euros – after 31 years of work, he became disabled and had to close his trade, which employed ten people. Andrej Peterle said that it is right that younger people also support their parents and their grandparents. “We urgently need to start fighting for decent wages and decent pensions,” he urged.
Rupar: “Our goal is to unite once and for all and tell them that this is one nation!”
“Unfortunately, we are also dividing ourselves into two groups here, and that is not our goal,” said Pavel Rupar, who invited everyone to the protest. “We also invited the President of the Federation of Pensioners’ Associations to join us, Mr Sušnik, and how nice it would have been if we all raised our voice and spoke out together against those who are impoverishing us,” he pointed out. “This is the people’s initiative! This is the nation! It is time to unite and tell everyone that this is one nation! We do not care where you will get the money for our demands! Where did you get the 2.5 billion euros for corruption, where did you get 500 million for the recapitalisation of power plants, where did you get the money for the judges?” he shouted as the gathered booed the President of the Slovenian Federation of Pensioners’ Associations, Janez Sušnik. He warned that pensioners are being forced into poverty by design and by law, not least because the politicians have big appetites for their property. “I urge you to make laws for a better life, not for a nice and quick death,” Rupar urged the crowd to never give up. “I promise you that we will fight for you and, therefore, for the youth,” he promised. Rupar concluded by thanking everyone for their participation and support – even those who could not make it: “God bless Slovenia!”
Pavle Rupar told the media the following: “If our demands are not heard by those in charge, there will be 30 thousand or more of us here on the 1st of March.” The crowd of several thousand at the rally was made up mostly of older people, many of them carrying Slovenian flags. Some were also carrying banners with which they were communicating their demands and messages to the government. They included slogans, such as “We demand decent pensions”, “Long live Janez Janša, Slovenian hero in war and peace”, “We want our deserved pensions”, “We created this country, and now all of you are enjoying the fruits of it”, the Slovenian Press Agency reported. In their speeches to the assembled crowd, it was said that the current generation of pensioners is the one who queued for petrol and building materials and the one who protested on Roška Street in Ljubljana against the fact that Slovenian citizens would be tried in Serbo-Croatian. They stressed that this was the generation that had the most to do with Slovenia’s independence, and they were now demanding a decent life, because pensions are not social assistance, but a right. They also told the government that they have had enough of being made fun of and that they want a decent life and respect.