ECONOMY

ECB heartens striking Bank of Greece staff

Bank of Greece employees, who are opposed to the government’s pension reforms, said yesterday they will strike again today and urged the country’s conservative government to withdraw its reform bill. Their union (SYTE), whose walkout earlier in the month forced the shutdown of Greece’s stock and bond markets for three days, urged the government to comply with the European Central Bank’s opinion on the issue or risk litigation at Europe’s top court. The European Central Bank added its weight on Wednesday to criticism of planned Greek pension reforms, which have sparked strikes and widespread protests. The ECB warned that the proposed reforms could hurt the independence of the Greek central bank, undermine its financial standing and also breach a ban on central banks funding government activities. «The intervention of the ECB is a slap for the government, it will lead it (the government) to a fiasco and ridicule. It shows Greeks how irresponsible and not well-thought-out the bill is,» SYTE said in a statement. «The ECB has opined 181 times on actions by national governments and on 179 of these at the request of the governments. The Greek government did not submit such a request. In all cases governments were obliged to implement the opinion of the ECB,» the union said. Greece’s parliament voted the bill through yesterday. Millions of Greeks took part in strikes on Wednesday in protest at the planned reforms, which include merging scores of pension funds – including one for Bank of Greece staff. In a legal opinion, drafted at its own initiative, the ECB said the reforms should be redrafted to make sure they did not impinge on the Bank of Greece’s ability to carry out its tasks. Separately, the Greek Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) said that according to reliable reports, Germany’s central bank had responded to a request by the Bank of Greece for an urgent infusion of liquidity to deal with the effects of the strike, and had sent -160 million. (Reuters)