Government to cut StB pensions – but calls made to aid victims more

The Czech government plans to cut the old-age pensions of senior communist-era secret police officers. While the idea is welcomed by some, calls have also been made to do more for the victims of the former regime, many of whom are on very low pensions.  

As an opposition MP, Marian Jurečka of the Christian Democrats last year put forward a bill to reduce the pensions of senior officers of the dreaded communist-era secret police, the State Security, or StB.

That attempt failed. Now, however, Mr. Jurečka is minister of labour and social affairs – and he told Czech Television that he was still working on the idea.

“I plan that an amendment that we are working on, and which will come into force in January 2023, will include what I proposed before.

"We plan that really prominent representatives of the Communist regime, leading StB officers and the like, will have their pensions reduced.”

Marian Jurečka | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Mr. Jurečka said the proposal was being fine tuned with the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which does research into the records of that era. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people are likely to be affected, he said.

One person who has long been advocating such a move is Mikuláš Kroupa. He is the founder of Paměť národa, a group that documents the stories of people who experienced the Nazi and Communist regimes at first hand.

Mr. Kroupa says reducing StB officers’ pensions is a “very positive and correct step”.

“But of course it should have happened a lot earlier.

"There is a whole generation of pensioners, especially those who in the 1950s stood up to the criminal regime, which threw them into labour camps, uranium mines and jails for many years…

"Today these people are around 90. Most don’t only suffer from the years they were locked up – many couldn’t later carry out their professions, in which they would have received adequate financial compensation.”

With pensions linked to long-term salary levels, many victims of the Communists do not enjoy decent retirements. Mikuláš Kroupa continues.

“The regime treated these people as the lowest group, who were allowed to do only the toughest jobs.

Mikuláš Kroupa | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

"For 40 years we had Battle of Britain aviators working in construction, we had soldiers from the fronts with university degrees working in warehouses.

"Many of them are now dead, but their widows also have low pensions because the regime targeted them too.”

Mr. Kroupa says therefore that alongside efforts to cut leading communist-era security officers’ pensions, more must be done to ensure that their victims receive better pensions, as well as practical benefits such as home meal deliveries.

The Slovak Parliament last year approved legislation reducing the pensions of communist regime security personnel.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said this corrected a “terrible contrast” between the unjustifiably high pensions of those who persecuted people and the low ones of those who were persecuted.