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Social Human Rights: UNO Criticizes PES Benefit Sanctions, Low Means-Tested Minimum Income and the Missing Co-determination of the People Concerned

Submitted by Aktiver Admin on Thu, 09.11.2017 - 15:47

Acitve Unemployed Austria’ demand the full implementation of the social human rights in an online petition

(Vienna/Graz, 9th December 2013) The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CECSR) plainly criticized the insufficient implementation of social human rights in its already fourth state review which is done every 8 years by the UNO in Geneva.

For the first time the benefit sanctions by the PES which are threatening people’s existence and which violate the human right of FREELY CHOSEN WORK after the tightening by the Amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act in 2004 and 2007 have been criticized. The UNO also criticizes the conditions under which benefit sanctions are imposed (imposition on the basis of pure suspicion, no fair proceedings, no assistance in law enforcement for people affected) and therefore presses for the right of freely chosen work not be violated by benefit sanctions, that is to say, that nobody is forced into work he or she has not chosen himself or herself by permanent threat of benefit sanctions. The UNO also presses for a regular and open dialogue of the PES with the unemployed people concerned.

The UNO criticizes the high number of long-term unemployed people and that the unemployment among youth is by 60 per cent higher than the average despite education and work programmes (training workshop, production schools) and that the government offers too few alternatives for job-seeking young people. The UNO criticizes as well that asylum seekers are denied the full access to gainful employment and that those asylum seekers who don’t find work can’t even draw means-tested minimum income.

As far as the means-tested minimum income is concerned, the UNO criticizes that it does (by far) not cover the real living costs and that the Republic of Austria doesn’t guarantee either that all people who need the means-tested minimum income will also get it in a “consistent and efficient way”. The UNO criticizes (indirectly) also in this case the sanction regime which is threatening people’s existence and which has been introduced by the Minister of Social Security, Hundstorfer.

As far as occupational therapies for the disabled (so-called “sheltered workshops for the disabled”) are concerned, the UNO criticized that the people working there don’t get an indemnification or only a small compensation for their work and don’t acquire a pension insurance in this way and therefore cannot enjoy an appropriate living standard.

The government and the courts ignore social human rights on principle

Like the ‘Active Unemployed Austria’ as part of the delegation of the platform “WSK-Rechte” (= Wirtschaftliche, soziale und kulturelle Menschenrechte, ‘Economic, social and cultural human rights’) organized by the FIAN (note: FIAN stands for FoodFirst Informations- und Aktions-Netzwerk = FoodFirst Information and Action Network) could find out, the UNO is most of all furious about the fact that nothing has changed about the fundamental flouting of the human rights by the Austrian government and the courts. Therefore the UNO demands once again that the social human rights are taken into the constitution and that Austria ratifies the supplementary protocol to the ESCR so that social human rights become finally legally enforceable and that every single inhabitant can lodge a complaint at the UNO. The UNO criticizes particularly the fact that the social human rights are still hardly applied in the administration of justice of the courts and that the judges are still not trained in social human rights. Even the Ombudsman Board still has not enough competences and is not really independent.

The association ‘Active Unemployed Austria’ feels that in this case the Supreme Administrative Court is really in charge, which does not even take the human right of freely chosen work into consideration or which rates every small matter as „frustration“ when the PES assigns a jurist a job as a cleaner - apparently as a means of harassment - and then imposes a benefit sanction (VwGH 97/08/0572). The Supreme Administrative Court also deprives long-term unemployed people of their rights and their human dignity when it states without any empirical evidence that it be notorious and for this reason need not be further substantiated that long-term unemployed people have a deficit in communication and fitting into society, by means of which EVERY compulsory measure be justified in itself (e.g. VwGH 2008/08/0273).

Austria’s appearance in Geneva: a disgrace for the governmental delegation

The government was conspicuous by its absence at the state hearing of Austria and had itself represented by a large and high-ranking delegation of officials. These not only had to let numerous critical questions wash over them, but they also cut a poor figure by not only showing themselves as uninformed but also as terribly arrogant. When being asked about the benefit sanctions at the PES, the representative of the Ministry of Social Security couldn’t give any concrete information and claimed merely sweepingly that these be only the very last means and would only be imposed according to completely precise and strict criteria which are laid down by the jurisdiction. The officials countered fairly brashly on the criticism of the UNO that the civil society had not been involved in drawing up the government report and did not get any support, that NGOs had the possibility of drawing up shadow reports anyway. The officials had to obtain current figures about the poverty in Austria at the Ministry of Social Security during lunch hour and left the question about the abolition of the limited disability pension unanswered.

Minister of Social Security Rudolf Hundstorfer is a violator of human rights to the first degree

Minister of Social Security Rudolf Hundstorfer is responsible for the completion of the neoliberal activation and compulsory labour regime: he has tightened the sanction regime by the means-tested minimum income and introduces a compulsory rehabilitation which runs counter to human rights by the abolition of the limited disability pension. In the worst case these compulsory treatments in psychiatric diseases by compulsory medication for example, are to be described even as torture according to the UN convention against torture. Rudolf Hundstorfer therefore has to put up with the accusation of being the biggest violator of human rights among the previous ministers of social security of the second republic. Unfortunately, until now he has proved himself to us to be completely impervious to arguments of human rights.

In view of the fact that Austria belongs to the richest and most developed states in the world, there is no excuse for the ignorance on the part of the government.

‘Active Unemployed Austriae’ start an online petition for the implementation of social human rights in Austria

On the basis of numerous violations of social human rights and on account of the fundamental hostile attitude of the government towards social human rights ‘Active Unemployed Austria’ start an online petition in which appropriate demands are made on the governmental negotiators. Human beings have a right of social human rights on the basis of their being human, not only when these prove themselves towards authorities to be “willing (to work)” and subservient.

If the opposition parties are at least ready to stand up for the social human rights, will in any case be closely examined by the ‘Active Unemployed Austria’.

Appendix: Excerpt from the recommendations of the UNO

16. The committee is concerned about the fact that the youth unemployment rate continues to be above 60 per cent of the unemployment rate for adults despite the introduction of apprentice training and professional training possibilities. It is also concerned about the high number of human beings who are confronted with long-term unemployment and that the conditions for the suspension of unemployment benefit possibly do not respect the right of every single person to earn their living by freely chosen or accepted work (articles 6, 7 and 9).

The committee recommends the contractual state to adopt long-term strategies – combined with an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism – in order to fight the fundamental causes of youth unemployment, but special attention has to be paid to marginalized groups and those put at a disadvantage; at the same time the contractual state should continue its efforts to increase the quality, the variety as well as the number of apprentice training and professional training possibilities. The committee also asks the contractual state to guarantee that the suspension of unemployment benefits does not violate the right of every person to earn their living by freely chosen or accepted work – according to article 6 of the pact – and that a regular and open dialogue between the Public Employment Service and the unemployed is held in order to take individual needs and matters of concern into consideration.>

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