ZAGREB, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Croatia's trade unions said on Monday that they will stage a major protest if the government does not call a referendum on the retirement age for which they collected enough signatures.
The unions aim to reduce the retirement age in the country to 65 years from the current 67 years of age that was approved in 2018. In June, the "67 is too much" union initiative was submitted to parliament after 748,624 signatures supporting a referendum were collected in just two weeks.
The unions' leaders gathered on Monday in front of the buildings of the government to send a strong message that they will not tolerate a further delay to the referendum.
"If the government doesn't respect the will of citizens, we will have to call them to come out onto the streets," Mladen Novosel, leader of the Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH), told reporters.
The leader of the Independent Trade Unions of Croatia (NHS), Kresimir Sever, said that the referendum should be held in October before the upcoming presidential elections.
In December 2018, the Croatian parliament approved the government's decision to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 years of age. The pension reform also included a 3.6 percent cut to pensions for each year of early retirement. The new retirement age, 67 years, will come into force in 2033. The government insists that the reform of the pension system is necessary to make it sustainable.
The unions have been campaigning to reverse the new legislation and organized a petition to call for a referendum. The target of 10 percent of registered voters or 373,568 signatures was easily surpassed.
In June, the government announced that there were 708,713 valid signatures. Parliament now has to decide whether to call a referendum or to ask the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the referendum.