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Pensions drop for communist-era officers in Poland

A contentious law that cuts pensions for officers who served under communism has so far saved Poland’s social security system close to PLN 229 million (EUR 55 million), deputy Interior Minister Jarosław Zieliński has told the PAP news agency.

The law, which has been in force for four months, cut state benefits and pensions for 38,000 former officers of the country’s feared communist-era security services SB (Służba Bezpieczeństwa).

Under the law, the maximum pensions and disability benefits for former security service employees cannot be higher than average state payouts.

On average, ex-communist officers have seen their pensions cut by PLN 2,238 (EUR 536) a month as a result of the law. According to the country’s social security institution (ZUS), the average monthly old-age pension in Poland is PLN 2,100 (EUR 503).

“Before the act was implemented, the 38,300 people had received a total of PLN 123.5 million (EUR 29.6 million) a month. In October 2017, some PLN 64.1 million (EUR 15.4 million) was spent on these people’s pensions,” Zieliński said.

The law attracted criticism from civil rights organizations, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR), arguing that “the measures go directly against the principle of a citizen’s trust in the state.”

According to HFHR, a law that aims at cutting pensions for former officers “responsible for serious violations of civil rights and freedoms,” should not “follow the principle of a collective punishment,” but include “individualised assessment.”

The affected ex-officers can appeal to Poland’s interior minister who, in “particularly justified cases,” can exempt them for cuts in pensions.

Ex-officers who saw their pensions or benefits cut as a result of the law can also appeal to a court to revoke the decision. According to the Ministry of the Interior, almost 25,000 decisions have been challenged in court.

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