Geneva vote – It’s up to the people to decide how much a former minister will receive

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Citizens must decide on the end of the life annuity of state councilors and choose the form of their future retirement.

Geneva is attacking the life annuities of councilors of state. On November 28, the population will have to decide between two texts which outline the contours of the plan after the abolition of the current pension system. “The stake is not to know if one abolishes the annuity for life, but how”, summarizes Jean Burgermeister, of Ensemble à Gauche (EàG). Indeed, if all the parties agree in saying that it is necessary to put an end to “this exceptional regime”, the question remains as to the system which will replace it.

Two options to choose from

On the menu, two choices are available to the people. On the one hand, the popular Green Liberal initiative, which is based on the unemployment insurance model, with the payment of an annual pension set at 70% of the last salary, for a maximum of two years after the end of the mandate. On the other, a counter-project which provides for an allowance amounting to 50% of the last salary of State Councilors (35% for magistrates at the Court of Auditors) for three to five years, depending on the length of the mandate. . The elected officials would be affiliated to the Geneva State Provident Fund (CPEG), under the primacy of benefits system, like all civil servants in the canton.

The counter-project, an immediate solution

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While the popular initiative had hit the mark when it was filed in July 2019 (nearly 8,000 signatures), it lost its luster after the validation, last March, of the counter-project that won over the left and the Movement. Citizens of Geneva (MCG).

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“It has the advantage of settling the question definitively, without the risk of a preferential arrangement for the magistrates”, explains Jean Burgermeister. Conversely, the initiative not being formulated, its acceptance would require the drafting and adoption of a law by the Grand Council. “That will take time. The elected representatives of 2023 could potentially still benefit from the annuity for life ”. For the member of EàG, the immediate entry into force of the counter-project is therefore “the best way to immediately put an end to the privileges”.

A detail that annoys

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In the eyes of the Liberal-Radical Party (PLR), the blank page offered by the initiative is a good thing. “This will make it possible to define the occupational pension scheme”, explains its chairman, Bertrand Reich. Namely: decide whether elected officials will be subject to the primacy of benefits or the primacy of contributions. The counter-project is already proposing to apply the first option. A decision that does not suit either the PLR ​​or the PDC-Le Center.

“If you are young, the primacy of benefits is very disadvantageous. It introduces an inequality of treatment between magistrates according to their age. It is a damaging system, because it will discourage young people from getting started, ”regrets Delphine Bachmann, president of the Center. The opponents point out that in the system of primacy of benefits, people under 45 leave only part of their second pillar and without interest. On the other hand, in a system of defined contributions, regardless of age, the insured recovers all the contributions paid (by the employer and the employee), plus interest. For this reason, both parties reject the counter-project.

Initiative deemed too extreme

If the Center does not support the counter-project, it also rejects the initiative which it considers too strict. “It does not take into account the specificities of the function. It is a very strong commitment to serve the community. This implies putting his professional life on hold, with many uncertainties linked to re-election. It’s not so easy to find work when you wear this political label, ”said Delphine Bachmann. According to her, the two-year period proposed by the initiative is too short to allow a serene conversion.

Same story on the side of the MCG, for which the initiative, resulting from “a rant” after the Maudet affair, is “too excessive. We prefer to listen to reason, rather than to the heart and the counter-project seems more reasonable to us, ”concludes the president of the party, Valentin Francisco.

Numbers fallen from the sky

“It is not,” says Marie-Claude Sawerschel. The president of the Vert’liberals points to the inconsistencies of the counter-project. “The duration of 5 years and the amount of the annuity set at 50% of the last income fell from the sky. There is no reason for the choice of these figures. It is important that Councilors of State can maintain a good standard of living. This is why we proposed 70%. ” She also evokes the problem of the primacy of benefits, “which is not at all suitable for people who work on mandate such as elected politicians.”

Finally, Marie-Claude Sawerschel recalls that “the initiative has the merit of having made things happen, while we have been asking for years that a law be drawn up, without success. We feel like we have been the stimulus for this change, ”she says.

Currently, former members of the cantonal executive receive a retirement benefit from eight years in office. A system that must be changed for ten years, because it is not in accordance with federal law. But it was the Maudet affair that brought the subject to the fore. Indeed, in June 2019, State Councilor Pierre Maudet, then in the midst of legal setbacks, reached the limit allowing him to receive the life annuity. A month later, the ecolo-centrist party tabled initiative 174 “For the abolition of life annuities for councilors of state”.

The majority of Swiss cantons have abandoned the life annuity system. The latest, Ticino in June 2021. Vaud and Neuchâtel are among the exceptions. On November 28, if neither of the two texts is accepted in Geneva, the current system will be maintained. In case of acceptance of the two proposals, a subsidiary question in the ballot paper will determine which to the preference of the people.

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