Holding line on pension changes

With banks shut today due to striking workers protesting upcoming changes to their pension funds, Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday that it would be disastrous for the government to retreat on its reform plans. OTOE, the Federation of Bank Employees Unions, has called a 24-hour strike for today in response to an amendment submitted to Parliament on Friday which states that Emporiki Bank employees will be required to join a central fund in the sector for their secondary pension. Alogoskoufis said that such changes will help create more jobs, attract more investments and increase exports. «Reforms are a central part of the government’s policy and we cannot go back on this,» the minister stressed. The government has been on the receiving end of sharp criticism in the last few days as opposition parties and union groups have accused the Finance and Labor ministries of submitting the amendment to Parliament late in the day in an attempt to slip it past its opponents. «The amendment… was submitted (to Parliament) at 1.15 p.m. on Friday,» said government spokes- man Theodoros Roussopolous, in an attempt to dispel the talk of political tricks. «The government considers OTOE’s reaction as inexcusable and perhaps excessive,» he said.