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Pension reform clears parliamentary hurdle but retirement age still an issue

Toledo Pact commission approves 21 of the Socialist recommendations, including new rules for death benefits

The government's pension reform plan — albeit one important component — cleared a parliamentary hurdle on Wednesday when a commission group gave the green light to a host of the Socialist recommendations that will be debated in Congress, including how calculations should be determined and new rules for deceased benefits.

However, the so-called Toledo Pact commission refused to agree outright with the government to push back the retirement age from 65 to 67 — the crux of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez's retirement system overhaul. Tomás Burgos, spokesman for the main opposition Popular Party, said that his lawmakers will ask for a separate vote in Congress "to not push back the retirement age."

The group recommendations will be presented to Congress on January 25.

The Socialists, along with the Popular Party, the Catalan nationalist CiU bloc and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), voted in favor of presenting the recommendations. Only the United Left-Catalan left (IU-ERC) bloc and the Galician Nationalists voted against endorsing them. But when it came to pushing back the retirement age, the Socialists stood alone.

The 21 recommendations approved by the Toledo Pact — a multi-party commission — include opening debates in calculating the contributions needed to qualify for retirement. As it is written now, the period for calculating final entitlements is the last 15 years. The government wants to extend that to 20-25 years.

The commission also agreed to discuss improving death benefits to widows over the age of 65, and allowing orphans to collect benefits up until the age of 25. Right now, 24 is the cutoff age.