NEWS

Lawyers, farmers lead pension plan protests

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Thousands of professionals protested against the government’s proposed pension reforms in central Athens on Thursday as hundreds of farmers gathered at various roadside demonstrations around Greece for the same reason.

Several thousand people are estimated to have taken to the capital’s streets in protest at reforms that will lead to their social security contributions increasing substantially, along with higher taxes. Lawyers, architects, doctors, pharmacists, engineers and notaries were among the protesters, many of who were wearing suits and neckties, an unusual sight at Greek protests.

“According to this proposed law, 84 percent of our earnings will go to taxes and other contributions,” a 35-year-old engineer who gave his name as Haris told Agence France-Presse.

“If this law goes through I will be forced to leave Greece and find work abroad,” he added.

Demonstrators chanted slogans against Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, who is responsible for the pension reform plan, and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. A group of lawyers hung their neckties on a tree outside Parliament in protest, while other burnt copies of the Government Gazette.

Ahead of a general strike on February 4, farmers are also venting their frustrations about increases in their social security contributions and income tax.

More than 2,000 tractors had gathered on Thursday at the Nikaia junction of the Athens-Thessaloniki highway in central Greece. Another 600 were lined up at Mikrothives nearby. Hundreds of farmers drove to the Vale of Tempe, where they are planning to block the national road between noon and 2 p.m. on Friday.

Farming union leaders said that if they do not get a response from Tsipras by Monday, they will step up their protests but did not give further details.

Katrougalos met with unionists in Athens on Thursday but was not able to convince the farmers to call off their protests.