Gov’t fights two fronts

As the debate over reforms to the pension scheme for bank workers commenced in Parliament last night, the government was faced with a double-sided test of its political will in its battle with unions and in its struggle to maintain harmony within the ruling New Democracy party. «It is a matter of major political choice for the government and is part of the reforms it was given the mandate to proceed with during last March’s elections,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. The government has already clashed with bank employees over the reforms that it has proposed. The workers have been on strike for four weeks and plan to continue until Thursday. As Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis launched a staunch defense of his proposed reforms last night, it was the threat of internal strife that was concerning the ruling conservatives as MP and former party leader Miltiades Evert appeared determined to table an amendment asking for an independent study into the cost of registering bank workers with the main state social security fund IKA. The main opposition PASOK party appears to be lying in wait to see whether Evert will proceed with his plan, ready to grab as much political capital as possible by emphasizing that ND has split into two camps. Alogoskoufis said that the government rejected Evert’s amendment, along with another two from other MPs, but they will nevertheless be aired in the house on Thursday, when MPs will vote on the government’s proposals. There was some respite for the government, however, as the Hellenic Banks Association allayed fears that many of the country’s 6,000 cash machines would run out of money as a result of security staff joining the strike yesterday. The banks said they could load most of the machines themselves.

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