Union fury over reform bill

The government submitted to Parliament yesterday an amendment aimed at pushing through banks’ pension reforms in the face of furious protests from unions, which have promised to intensify their strike action. The Finance and Labor ministries said in a joint statement that the changes to the banking sector’s pension system will help solve a problem which has been dogging the economy for years. «At the same time, a large structural reform is taking place, one which ensures the proper operation of the banking system, especially of state banks,» the ministries added. Greece plans to create an auxiliary pension fund and gradually register all bank employees with the state’s main social security fund, IKA. The draft amendment gives banks the ability to contribute to the single fund for another 10 years, excludes the Bank of Greece and requires secondary funds to be rolled into the newly created one. Bank employees, who have been on strike for 11 days, repeated their calls for the legislation to be withdrawn yesterday, adding that they plan to extend their strike action until a solution is found. Banks and union groups had been in talks for the past six months in an attempt to find common ground on the issue. The Finance Ministry, however, stepped in after a common solution looked unlikely. The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), the country’s largest umbrella union, also lent its support by announcing that it has called a 24-hour strike for next Friday. The draft, which is expected to be approved by Parliament by the end of next week, also allows for pension reforms relating to the country’s largest phone company, OTE.

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