Pensioners rally for better deal from gov’t overhaul

Around 2,000 Greek pensioners demonstrated in central Athens yesterday demanding better pensions as the government prepared to launch a drastic overhaul of the ailing social security system. The ruling conservatives, who won a new four-year term in September, have vowed to reform the system, which experts say could collapse in 15 years due to an aging population. Holding banners that read: «Decent pensions for decent people,» pensioners, some aided by canes, marched from the central Athens City Hall to the Labor Ministry. «My pension is just over -250 a month,» said Constantinos Doganis, 75, who held up a blown-up photocopy of his pension slip showing he got -266 a month. »How can I live on that when every day prices are going up but my pension remains the same.» Labor unions have said more than 70 percent of pensions are less than -600 a month. Greece’s central bank has urged the government to deal immediately with the pension problem, due to Greece’s low birth rate, fragmented fund system and mismanagement, to avert havoc in public finances. Discrepancies «The central bank governor has a monthly salary that equals the pensions of at least 40 people,» Diamantis Mavrodoglou, president of pensioners from IKA, the country’s main social security fund. «No government has cared about us and so we will get what we are entitled to only if we take to the streets.» He said more rallies were planned for early November. Government officials say hundreds of pension funds may have actuarial deficits totaling close to -400 billion, about twice the country’s GDP. Greece’s largest unions, representing some 2.5 million workers, have turned down calls by the government to discuss reforms, saying they wanted to know the government’s specific proposals before they sit down at the negotiating table. The ruling conservatives have yet to release their reform plan, which may feature extending age limits, merging funds and hiking monthly payments.

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