The government decided Thursday to submit two new bills, reforming the pension and tax systems, to Parliament at the weekend and vote on them on Sunday night in a bid to secure the backing of MPs before Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos faces his eurozone peers in Brussels on Monday.
The country’s two main labor unions reacted immediately, calling a 48-hour general strike for Friday and Saturday which, coupled with a 24-hour strike already scheduled for Sunday, will result in three days of action. Apart from disrupting public transport, the strike will close schools and public services offices and leave hospitals on skeleton staff.
Originally, the government’s plan had been to hold the vote on Wednesday night but officials decided to bring the vote forward so Tsakalotos goes to Monday’s Eurogroup with two laws to present to Greece’s creditors.
Officials are said to have been concerned about a possible rebellion by coalition MPs if the Eurogroup issued a stern message for Greece after deeming that too little progress has been achieved. However, if the pension and tax overhauls, which are worth 5.4 billion euros, are voted into law on Sunday, “no MP will want to assume the responsibility of conveying an image of destabilizing the government just before a deal is reached,” an official close to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
Tsipras will on Friday meet with SYRIZA MPs and seek to gain their backing for the government’s efforts to secure a positive review by creditors. As declared in a note issued by Tsipras’s office last night, the reforms being tabled in Parliament “fully secure people’s pensions, protect the weak, spread the burden of taxes and social security contributions more fairly and safeguard the sustainability of the pension system.”
The mood in the premier’s office was upbeat Thursday with no sign of fears of defections from the two parties in the ruling coalition in Sunday’s vote. Opposition parties have vowed to oppose the bills.
The government is also said to be buoyed by reports that eurozone officials are planning to issue a statement after Monday’s Eurogroup session, expressing commitment to relieving Greece’s debt. It remains unclear, however, whether the proposed reform will be adequate to satisfy the International Monetary Fund.