Unions reject call on pensions

Greece’s main labor unions yesterday rejected a fresh call from the government for a dialogue over planned pension reform, denouncing its offer as meaningless. The government yesterday issued a new invitation to talks in Parliament on November 6 to tackle the country’s ailing social security system, expected to become financially unviable in 15 years due to an aging population if it is not overhauled. «We were expecting proposals, not an invitation,» said Efstathios Anestis, spokesman for the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE). «It means nothing… and we see no reason to participate.» The union now sets the announcement of specific proposals by the government as a condition for GSEE’s participation in the dialogue. Two weeks ago, the government had invited social partners to talks on how to make the pension system viable but unions turned it down, setting their own demands for discussion of specific problems within a parliamentary framework. Unions say the government is exaggerating the need to raise age limits and contributions and blame the state for pension problems. The Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY), which together with GSEE represent more than 2.5 million workers, said it had been expecting specific proposals on how the system would be funded and not another call to a general discussion. «Unions will not attend,» ADEDY spokesman Andreas Petropoulos said. «We expected a more analytical presentation of the system proposed by the government and if the government sticks to just this invitation we will not attend.» Main opposition PASOK deputy Evi Christofilopoulou said yesterday her party will participate in the dialogue «with clear positions and proposals,» while the Communist Party and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) are to abstain from the process. The unions have pledged to stage rallies and strikes in the coming two months to oppose any unilateral moves by the government. Greek pensioners will demonstrate in central Athens today, demanding higher pensions. GSEE has said more than 70 percent of pensions were living on less than 600 euros a month. Greece’s central bank has urged the government to immediately address the pension problem, due to Greece’s low birthrate, fragmented fund system and mismanagement, to avert havoc in public finances. Government officials say hundreds of pension funds may have actuarial deficits totaling close to -400 billion, about twice the country’s GDP. (Reuters, Kathimerini)