Greece, Germany discuss social security issues

Labor and Social Security Minister Tassos Yiannitsis and his German counterpart, Walter Riester, held two days of talks on recent developments in the labor market and social security issues. Yiannitsis has been under heavy fire by unions – largely controlled by the ruling Socialists – since he unveiled, in March, a reform package for social security raising the retirement age and providing for a role for private pension schemes. He was obliged to withdraw his proposals after strong protests. A recently completed reform in Germany provided universal social security coverage, partly financed through a green tax on fuel, and accompanied by tax breaks to enterprises. Riester placed emphasis on a provision that allows full-time employees to change their status to part-time. A former head of Germany’s largest union, IG Metall, who had campaigned for a 35-hour working week without pay cuts (a demand taken up recently by Greek unions), Riester now believes that a shorter working week, while desirable, is impossible without corresponding pay cuts.

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