(Vienna/Graz, 20th December, 2016) Today the Bundesrat has passed an amendment for the Labour Market Service Act and for the Unemployment Insurance Act which has a bad Christmas surprise in store for the unemployed apart from the prolongation of the short-time allowance: from the 1st January 2017 on, the Public Employment Service AMS is without any restrictions allowed to make “connection queries” about all unemployed in general in the central register of residents when there are concrete suspicious circumstances and may thus receive the data of all people who are registered in a flat, even if these people are only sharing a flat and have otherwise nothing to do with the unemployed registered at the AMS.
“By this, social minister Alois Stöger (SPÖ - Social Democratic Party) himself is pursuing a scaremongering neoliberal policy which he pretends to get away from as he said today of all days in a newspaper interview”, Martin Mair, chairman of ‘Active Unemployed Austria’, so criticizes the amendment and demands its revocation and that the partner income is no longer harassingly taken into account for the unemployment assistance.
Social minister Alois Stöger ignores the basic right of data protection
The social minister, to be precise, says according to an explanation in a governmental draft that “both bogus residences in Austria and (secret or denied) partnerships as well can be inspected and uncovered more easily.” The draft does not give an account of how big the “improper claims on allowances” really are, even though a cost assessment (expense against proceeds) is stipulated by law.
Although the constitutional service of the Federal Chancellery says in a critical statement referring to another statement made in 2008, that the query of all people living in a household violates the basic right of data protection and the human right respecting private and family life which is also stated in the constitutional status according to article 8 European Human Rights Convention, and that for this reason queries should only be made in the case of concrete suspicious circumstances, the social minister Alois Stöger ignores all reservations which have also been expressed in the social committee of the Green Party and cold-bloodedly rushes through the government draft in the parliament and in the Bundesrat for which a shorter assessment was planned for only two weeks.
Harassments by the AMS will annoy thousands of innocent parties
The AMS stops the payment of allowances already on the slightest suspicion without a previous party hearing where the persons affected can give their opinion on the accusations, and thus turns the presumption of innocence enacted in the constitution into a presumption of guilt. That is why thousands of innocent unemployed people will be annoyed, only because they are living with people sharing a flat and the AMS assumes that they are living in a potential partnership and have an economic community. Moreover, the AMS sends out snoopers who have a close look at the most intimate corners of the flat without letting the people know before-hand and now and then take advantage of the shock effect in order to carry out illegal examinations which are actually only allowed by an authority with a summons after an appropriate preparation time. As a rule the snoopers don’t tell the people caught unawares that they may refuse to let someone into the flat according to the householder’s rights as stated in the constitutional status and now and then the snoopers may also immediately make inquiries at the neighbours.
The AMS will receive delicate data about thousands upon thousands of people and because they don’t share a flat with the unemployed persons, the data are of no concern to the AMS and are not allowed to be ascertained and stored according to the Labour Market Service Act.
Instead of finally abolishing the fact of taking the income of the partner harassingly into account, it will be tightened up
Although people living in a relationship have to pay their unemployment insurance, the AMS has to take the income of the partner into account as far as the unemployment assistance is concerned. The earnings exemption limit is such low with 642 Euros (as of 2016), that the state pushes thousands of families and partnerships far below the official poverty line with full force: every Euro earned by the partner is being harshly subtracted from the allowance by the PES. The state only grants 279 Euros as an earnings exemption limit per child, despite the fact that the unemployment assistance is limited to 895 respectively 1.043 Euros anyway, depending on the insurance period and so it is clearly below the poverty line.
It is the social minister then who really abuses, who de facto expropriates the insurance payers. Since four fifths of the people affected by a complete stop of the payment of the unemployment assistance due to the income of the partner taken into account are women, it is de facto a matter of discrimination of genders, even if the Administrative Court is almost exclusively occupied by men and sees it differently. In 2013, 12,364 people didn’t receive any money at all (the percentage of women was 82%), 11,324 people had to put up with subtractions ((the percentage of women was 54%). On average, women lost 318 Euros every month, men lost 293 Euros.
It’s completely unknown how many families the state has destroyed, there are no studies dealing with this at all and in proposed laws only the outcome for the state budget but not for the population subject to law has to be evaluated.
The workers’ and employees’ professional association and the Austrian federation of labour unions let job-seeking employees completely down again
Although the workers’ and employees’ professional association demands in theory that the income of the partner is no longer taken into account, it agrees in unison to the data communication to the AMS just like the industrialist association does and even justifies this harassment: “The details of persons about potential flat communities can in this way be better examined when they file an application for unemployment assistance. Because a decision based on facts is both in the interest of the job-seekers and in the interest of the insurance community, no objection is raised to this change either.”
The Austrian federation of labour unions goes into hiding as usual when the rights of job-seeking employees are restricted, which is better in the face of its reactionary defence of structural violence by the sanction regime threatening the livelihood. For the federal committee of the Austrian federation of labour unions has even demanded the exhaustion of the sanction threats in the means-tested minimum income scheme as well as direct payments to lessors and energy suppliers, which also infringes upon the basic right of data protection and even compromises the poorest!
The Austrian Poverty Committee (‘Österreichische Armutskonferenz’, member of EAPN) and other organizations which should be competent to give their support for the people who have been made unemployed and/or poor, or which stick the “protection of the family” on their banner, remain silent as always.
That is why ‘Active Unemployed Austria’ require the workers’ and employees’ professional association and the Austrian federation of labour unions that these organizations finally fight for the human rights of the employees, just when these are removed from the economy and from the state as “superfluous” and are hurt in their human right of securing their own livelihood and improvement of their own living conditions by means of freely chosen work that secures their livelihood!