Funds set for mergers

As the government takes steps to put together a plan that will save the social security system from future collapse, Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said yesterday that all main pension funds will be merged with the country’s main fund IKA next year. «By the end of 2007, based on current legislation, we will join IKA-ETAM with main pension funds and there will also be a merging and grouping of secondary funds,» said Tsitouridis. The minister announced the change after the first meeting of a committee the government has put together to assess the health of the social security system. The committee’s purpose is to prepare a report on how the system can be made viable which the government can then act upon. The conservative government has said that it will not proceed with any reforms during its current four-year term in office which ends in March 2008. The committee comprises representatives from employer and union groups along with government ministries and other experts. Representatives from GSEE, the country’s largest union group, however, failed to appear yesterday as they question the objectivity of the talks. «No one can abstain from crucial issues such as this,» said Tsitouridis. Minor changes to the pension system have so far been met by strong opposition from workers. In 2002, changes introduced by the Socialist government, which affected retirement ages and pensions payable, prompted crippling nationwide strikes. Experts have warned that the social security system will need a larger overhaul to ensure that it can survive in the future. The labor minister also said yesterday that initiatives will be taken by the end of 2006 to help stamp out the massive IKA contribution evasion that exists. He did not clarify what the steps will be. Experts claim that IKA is missing out on 1.8 billion euros per year from businesses that dodge contributions they are required to make. According to sources, one in seven businesses this year had failed to register with IKA and one in six workers remains uninsured.