Measures agreed to create teaching positions

A series of measures has been agreed by the Austrian Government and the GÖD trade union, which will provide incentives for teachers to retire or to take long-term leave - thus creating room for young teachers. Moderate cost savings are part of the package.

The Government and the teachers' sections within the Union of Public Services (Gewerkschaft Öffentlicher Dienst, GÖD) have agreed a package of legal changes on retirement and working time, aimed at cutting costs and ensuring the employment of young teachers. The package was approved by the cabinet in October 1997.

Early retirement is one measure in the package. Teachers born in 1953 or earlier will be entitled to retire from the age 55. The total pension sum they would have received between the ages of 60 and 76 is then paid over the longer period. Since this amounts to a loan from the Government, 4% interest charges are due. Teachers will have to apply at least six months before the date of retirement and can reverse their decision up until three months before the date. The cut-off date of 1953 was chosen because teachers are less numerous in younger cohorts. The Government had wanted a cut-off date of 1948, but yielded to the trade union. The measure is believed to be cost-neutral. Its main aim is to make room in the schools for younger teachers, of whom there is a glut. The trade union estimates that every year about 1,500 teachers working in school grades one to nine are likely to choose early retirement under this scheme.

Another measure aimed at creating more openings for young teachers is the introduction of one year's sabbatical leave. Over a period of three to five years, a teacher will be entitled to two to four years' pay, stretched over the entire period including the year off. In a special version of the scheme, teachers will be able to save up time from the age of 50 and take several years' sabbatical from 55, to be followed seamlessly by retirement at 60. For instance, a teacher would accept half pay from the ages of 52 to 55, then take four years' sabbatical from 56 to 59, also at half pay, and retire with a full pension at 60.

Teachers will now also have an entitlement to unpaid leave. Also new is an entitlement to part-time work at more than 50% of regular hours (though not below 50%).

Overtime regulations are also being changed. This is the only real cost-cutting measure that survived the negotiations. In essence, hours regularly worked in surplus of the basic teaching requirement will henceforth only be paid, if the agreed minimum weekly requirement has been worked. The Government wanted a year-long reference period, but has now consented to one week as the reference period. Teachers receive a 73% premium for surplus hours worked.

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