NEWS

Gov’t refuses to blink

The government did not flinch yesterday as bank workers extended their strike until Friday and Greece’s two biggest unions said they will join in industrial action at the end of the week to protest pension reforms. «Workers are exercising their legal right. The government has exhausted discussions on the matter and has arrived at its decision,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, after a decision by the Federation of Bank Employees (OTOE) to renew its rolling 48-hour strikes. The union’s industrial action began three weeks ago in protest over plans to force through reforms to bank workers’ pension schemes. A bill to create an auxiliary pension fund and register bank employees with the state’s main social security fund, IKA, was submitted to Parliament on Friday. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said the government had explored every possible avenue during the six-month negotiations. But OTOE said it would strike until Friday, when the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the country’s largest umbrella union, has called a nationwide general strike in support of bank workers and as part of an effort to keep the government from further tinkering with pensions and social security reforms. The civil servants’ union ADEDY called for a three-hour work stoppage on Friday so public sector workers could join in the demonstrations organized by GSEE. The main demonstration will start at 10.30 a.m. Friday in front of the Finance Ministry in Athens. In a statement, GSEE accused the government of trying to destroy IKA, favoring employers with its policies and trying to extend the eight-hour working day. It warned the the ruling conservatives, «Hands off the pension funds and the eight-hour working day.» However, the government appeared in no mood to back off from what is becoming a volatile clash. «These matters are to do with the sustainability of pension funds. If you do not think of tomorrow, then it can turn out to be worse than today,» Roussopoulos said.