Strikes end — for now

The four-week-long strike by bank employees came to an end late yesterday as Parliament voted to pass the government’s proposals for sweeping changes to banks’ pension schemes, but unionists warned of further action against any more structural changes. Hundreds of bank workers protested outside Parliament in a last stand against the government’s plans to create a single auxiliary pension fund for them and to register all new sector employees with the main state social security fund, IKA. However, with the government having a comfortable majority in the 300-seat house, the protesters knew that time was up on their month-long industrial action before the evening vote finally confirmed it. Although 14 deputies did not vote, 164 MPs (all ND deputies) were in favor of the proposals, which were included in a bill on capital markets, while 122 opposition MPs voted against the bill. An article outlining the 1.5-billion-euro early retirement deal for thousands of OTE Telecom employees, in return for putting an end to jobs for life for future company workers, was voted on separately but passed just as easily. However, it was a tougher ride for Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. After taking a beating from New Democracy’s former leader, Miltiades Evert, in recent days, Alogoskoufis had to endure attacks in Parliament yesterday from opposition MPs who accused him of favoring banks and saddling taxpayers with extra costs by registering bank workers with the struggling IKA fund. «He is giving billions to banks, unbalancing the social security system and burdening IKA and Greek taxpayers,» said PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis. Evert, who abstained from the vote, continued with his barbs against Alogoskoufis, saying that an increase in the share capital of banks could have been used to raise the funds necessary to cover pension liabilities. «Even a simple economist could have thought of that. I am baffled that the Finance Ministry did not think of it,» Evert said. Meanwhile, the country’s largest umbrella union, GSEE, threatened to call another 24-hour general strike if the government tried to tamper with work hours or workers’ rights. The union also said that it would refuse to negotiate labor matters with the government.

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