The unions that are leading the fight against extending the retirement age to sixty-seven delivered to lawmakers on Thursday their petition for a referendum on the issue.
Union volunteers hauled into the Sabor sixty-five boxes of paper with seven hundred and forty-eight thousand six hundred and twenty four signatures supporting a referendum to change pension legislation. The number of boxes, symbolically corresponds to the age unions want the retirement age rolled back to.
“By delivering this petition for a referendum and bringing these 65 symbolic boxes, we have completed the first step of our endeavor," said the initiative's coordinator Mirela Bojić.
New retirement legislation was passed only recently by parliament and some speculate the government may ask the Constitutional Court to consider the legality of the union's referendum question. Unions are urging the government not to use this as a stall tactic and to move quickly on reviewing the signatures. Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković believes the final count will be more than enough, did not exclude the possibility of a Constitutional Court riview.
"Since the number of signatures is very high, we expect the final number to be enough to call a referendum. The Sabor's Rules and Political System Committee can propose to ask the Constitutional Court for a review of the referendum question," he said.
However, Jandroković said that option still needed to be discussed among the ruling majority. Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević believes taking this to the Constitutional Court is the right thing to do and so does opposition MP Peđa Grbin.
If the constitutional experts are divide on this issue, then it makes sense to ask the justices of the Constitutional Court to weigh in," Kuščević says.
"I think it would be good, based on past practice, to send the question to the court for review in order to avoid having the changes brought on by a successful referendum struck down later by the court," says Grbin.
Unions say they consulted many experts in drafting the question and are confident it is constitutional. Minister Predrag Štromar, from the People's Party, would like to avoid a referendum all together and says the government should sit down with unions and negotiate changes to the current law. Minister Kuščević agrees negotiations would be a better option. Unions say the people have spoken and want a referendum on this issue and not more talk.