Social security deal in the making

The government and the ruling PASOK party-affiliated trade union grouping (PASKE) are in the process of working out a deal on social security reform, sources say. The reports surfaced after a restaurant meeting in the Athens suburb of Halandri last week of Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis with Deputy Social Security Minister Rovertos Spyropoulos and General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos. The basic elements of the deal, which is unofficially described as a path for convergence, is said to be a realistic compromise on the part of GSEE in return for the maintenance of the standard pension requirement of 35 years at work for a full pension and the adoption of incentives that will encourage people to prolong their working lives. This would be combined with a flexible retirement scheme scaled between the ages of 55 and 65. In an interview with Eleftherotypia on Monday, Polyzogopoulos appeared to scale down previous demands for an extension of state funding to those first insured before 1993 – when it was first introduced – in favor of a strengthened state contribution in the future. After a meeting with Polyzogopoulos yesterday, new PASOK General Secretary Costas Laliotis said he would hold regular, three-monthly meetings with GSEE. Period of grace Meanwhile, Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas seems to have adopted the idea of a period of grace until December 31, 2006 for the implementation of reform provisions regarding pension rights. According to sources, during a meeting with the board of the civil servants union (ADEDY) on Monday, Reppas said those fulfilling pension requirements under the present rules until that date will not be affected by the new provisions. He also reiterated his predecessor, Tassos Yiannitsis’s pledge that the impact of the new provisions will be proportionate to the years in work; that is, they will apply only to the years after the enactment of the reform and not for one’s entire working life. Reppas stressed the need to deal with the inequalities and contradictions of the system, and indicated that reform proposals will particularly affect the so-called privileged social security funds for bank workers and public utilities and organizations. He noted that the present system was not about to collapse but required a careful examination of its problematic aspects for the appropriate solutions to be identified. Differences could be discerned between the positions of ADEDY and GSEE. ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said, GSEE handles the issues and proposes solutions which concern the private sector. The public sector has its own features and requires a specific policy and trade union approach. The government is expected to launch an initiative for dialogue with unions and employers before Christmas but without submitting a specific framework of proposals. A first batch of proposals released by the government in the spring were withdrawn after strong union reactions.

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