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Social affairs – pension scheme:

The second Reformation Dragonfly of 1563 contains information about the old age pension of the employees of the salt works for the first time. The commissions (pensions) were quite good for the time and amounted to around 2/3 of the normal wages for masters and workers and half the salary of the deceased man for widows.


The Salinenspital in Hallstatt was also well endowed, in which the members of the Salinen from Ischl were admitted in the case of weakness, old age, frailty and illness. It had a secure annual income of 898 guilders, which was made up of foundation funds from Maximilian I and salt dedications.


In the Salinenspital Hallstatt not only poor, sick and old members of the salt industry in the Kammergut found accommodation and food, up to 50 people in need of care not working in the salt industry were also supported with benefices and financial aid.  


The exercise of religious duties was strictly regulated in the Salinenspital; the beneficiaries (pensioners) had to attend the daily mass and include requests for the emperor and the imperial house in their prayers. The hospital manager had to encourage the residents to pray, also make sure that they take communion several times and "that they, as true believers in Christ, always stand in the fear of God".


The beneficiaries were not badly fed, they received a pound of beef and 2 pounds of bread every meat day, and a pint of wine on holidays and communion day; they also received 2 pairs of shoes every year and a “dress” every two years.


Up until the middle of the 16th century, salt workers in old age were only dependent on care in the Salinenspital in Hallstatt; they only received a commission (grace pension) from princely funds after the second Reformation Libel from 1563.


Around 1593, the commission of a dismissed worker was 15 to 30 kreuzers a week, but many were only dealt with with a one-off gift of 10 to 12 guilders and otherwise referred to the hospital catering.

The amount of all gifts was based on wages, length of service and behavior.


This practice continued into the 17th century, since commissions remained mere pleas for clemency and were not bound to any specific amount. The low old-age pension, which for widows was only half of the husband’s commission, was hardly sufficient to prolong bare life in times of rising prices, which is why the Hofkammer then gave particularly needy workers and their widows, in addition to the commission, one-off grace payments of varying amounts as emergency help approved.


The workers in the private service of finishers, master woodworkers and shipwrights were excluded from commissions. Persons outside the right to supply could be granted support by the Salzamt as a mercy in the case of particular need and worthiness.


The old-age pension due to the workers directly employed by the Salt Office had, under certain conditions, almost become a gamble. Above all, the worker applying for the commission had to be permanently unable to work according to the determination of the saline physician and his official behavior had not given cause for complaint. However, the commission could also be refused for other reasons.


In 1751, the Salzamtmann Sternbach withdrew a worker's commission "because of the respect that the officials were not shown by not removing their hat".


Even in 1792, the servants did not yet have an undisputed right to the commission. At that time, the Court Chamber declared commissions in the amount of the last active salary "as a supreme grace, which not only presupposes a long period of service but, what is most important, good and useful service and therefore excellent merits".  


Every three months there were presentations of the commissioners, including those who had completed their 40th year of service and were entitled to full wages as commission, in which case the Chamber Gutsphysicus had to examine them to see whether they were actually capable of no work, even light work.


According to the resolution of February 8, 1770, the entitlement to commission began after 8 years of service, counted from the age of 15, and reached full wages as a maximum with the 40th year of service. Workers who were unable to work before their 8th year of service generally only received severance pay equal to one year's wages.


However, when they left work, the provisionists also lost their claim to the farm grain. It was therefore not uncommon, and was even encouraged by the Hofkammer for reasons of economy, for workers to remain in the plant after their 40th year of service as “semi-jubilees” and then had to do lighter tasks for the earlier wages.


The commissions of widows and orphans were almost always paid out with an increase, because the extremely low commission contributions would not have been enough to support them. Either the Hofkammer approved an increase in the normal commission, or they added a weekly alms to it.


Fatherless orphans also received a weekly commission and often a quarterly allowance. The reference ended at the age of 12, from 1800 onwards at the age of 14. Illegitimate children only acquired the ability to receive a commission through the subsequent marriage of their parents, otherwise the manorial system had to take care of them.


For the jubilee (retirement), the court chamber demanded proof of medical incapacity to work by means of a certificate, which had to be signed by the responsible doctor as well as by the district physician. 40 years of service were not enough for the court chamber to celebrate.


The reasons for the inability to work were often cited by the doctors at the salt works as nonsense, but also weakness of nerves, paralysis, deafness, pulmonary addiction, epilepsy, goiter, crippling and scrofula (glandular disease). The frightening frequency of these physical defects was a consequence of rather alarming signs of degeneration. Most of these were certainly the aftermath of the famine years of the French era. In addition, the inappropriate and poorly varied diet and the seclusion of the chamber estate, which led to inbreeding, were also to blame. Cretinism, which was particularly widespread in Hallstatt, only disappeared at the end of the 19th century. Malicious gossips once claimed that the construction of the railway in the 1970s, which brought many strangers to the country, had had a positive effect on the next generation.


Provisionists between the ages of 60 and 65, whom the Physician found suitable for lighter work, were obliged to work 1 to 3 shifts a week for free in the 13th to 39th quarter, i.e. 1 to 3 shifts a week and to do road work, shoveling snow, sand extraction, light wood production, cleaning the work gear, Geimeln (house caretaker in the miner's house) and other work.


Because of the low value of the provisionist work, the unwillingness with which it was done and the cumbersome supervision by the administrative offices, the ministry abolished the jubilee shifts again in 1849 without replacement.


The basis for calculating weekly commissions dates back to 1768. Of course, commissions of such small magnitude were no longer sufficient in the 19th century, but the court chamber nevertheless stuck to the system and, as with wages, made do with provisional measures, Cost-of-living grants and quarterly grants.


A widow became entitled to the normal commission only after her husband had served eight years. If her husband had died earlier, she was only entitled to a one-time severance payment equal to his last quarterly salary. Only if the worker had a fatal accident before reaching the eighth year of service did the Hofkammer grant the widow a simple commission.


As a result of the state bankruptcy in 1811, the Salinenspital in Hallstatt had lost almost all of its assets invested in securities and then no longer had the means to fulfill its obligations. However, through the greatest reduction in expenditure and the support of the Court Chamber, it was gradually able to recover to the point where it was able to provide for the statutory number of beneficiaries and cover the operating costs. In 1847 the hospital's assets were already so strong that the full number of 24 beneficiaries could be fed and 39 orphans could receive educational grants and 95 cases of support totaling 1,300 guilders.


Like the Salinenspital in Hallstatt, the Holy Spirit Hospital in Aussee served to house and feed poor, veteran imperial workers, their widows and orphans, for which purpose it received 800 guilders a year from the Salt Office. In 1815, 15 beneficiaries lived in the hospital.


The benefactor's house (poor house) in Ischl was not a princely institution, but the property of the market community, but had the obligation to accommodate eight employees of the salt works and, moreover, to keep two rooms available at all times to accommodate seriously ill workers. In 1844, the municipality intended to vacate the prebendary's house, which was located between the post office and the theatre, i.e. in the liveliest and most frequented area of the seaside resort, and to create a replacement building in a quieter area. The postmaster Franz Koch agreed to buy a building plot in the east of the market square in exchange for the old prebendary house and to build the new prebendary house on it at his own expense.



Sources used:

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian salt works from the beginning of the 16th to the middle of the 18th century", Vienna 1932

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1750 to the time after the French Wars", Vienna 1934

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1818 to the end of the Salt Office in 1850", Vienna 1936

Ischl home club "Bad Ischl home book 2004", Bad Ischl 2004

"Mining - everyday life and identity of the Dürrnberg miners and Hallein saltworks workers", Salzburg contributions to folklore, Salzburg, 1998

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