Attempt to reform social security system begins

A first tentative step toward attempting to reform Greece’s creaking social security system was taken yesterday as the government assigned the task of coming up with new ideas and a framework for discussion to a panel of employer and labor representatives. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis threw the perennial hot potato over to the Economic and Social Council, which is made up of representatives of labor unions, local government, agricultural cooperatives and employer groups. Alogoskoufis said that the Council would take some time to study the problem and ruled out any major developments before the next general elections, due by 2008. Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, who also attended the meeting, assured workers that their pensions were not at risk. The Council ruled out discussing any changes to work hours until the government has held talks with workers and employers about the issue. Earlier this month, the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the country’s largest umbrella union, warned that the financial resources of Greece’s main social security fund, IKA, would dry up in 20 years’ time. Industrialists and the governor of the Bank of Greece, Nicholas Garganas, in his annual report on Monday, also urged the government to forge ahead with social security reforms. GSEE, like the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY), refused to take part in yesterday’s meeting, claiming it was not «genuine.» PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis accused the government of not having any ideas of its own and letting the discussion of reforms take place in a vacuum.

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