Unions again refuse to join pension talks

Greece’s largest umbrella union yesterday rejected for a second time the government’s call for dialogue over pension reforms, insisting that they will not join talks until funding issues are put on the table. Greece’s center-right government, which won a new four-year term in September, has called for talks to fix the country’s ailing social security system, expected to become financially unviable in 15 years due to an aging population. «If the government insists on a dialogue without first addressing the issue of funding (social security) then they will continue in a monologue, without us,» private sector labor confederation GSEE said in a statement yesterday. Greece’s main unions estimate unpaid state contributions to various funds would keep the country’s social security system afloat until at least 2050. The government has rejected the assertion. «Under the terms given by the government, we will not join talks either,» said Spyros Papaspyros, president of public sector umbrella union ADEDY, which represents about 500,000 civil servants. Earlier this month the government invited social partners to talks on how to overhaul the pension system to make it viable. But unions turned it down, setting their own demands. GSEE says the government is exaggerating the need to raise the retirement age and contributions, blaming the state for failing to pay its share of obligations into the system. ADEDY, which together with GSEE represents more than 2.5 million workers, said they had been expecting specific proposals on how the system would be funded and not another call to a general discussion. The unions have pledged to stage rallies and will strike on December 12 to oppose any unilateral moves by the government. A committee tasked with investigating the severity of the country’s pension crisis last week said if changes weren’t made immediately, social security could end up costing the state up to about 25 percent of GDP, compared to 12.5 percent currently. Government officials say hundreds of pension funds may have actuarial deficits totaling close to 400 billion euros, about twice the country’s GDP.