PM sticks to reform plan

The conservative government is seen as sticking closely to its plans to reform the social security system as the next round of talks in Parliament on the controversial changes start today with worker groups continuing strike action. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is expected to call for support from his MPs on efforts to implement pension reforms at the scheduled meeting of his parliamentary group on Thursday. Sources said Karamanlis could even propose changes to pensions payable to MPs as a means of swinging public opinion in favor of the changes. Employment and Social Security Minister Vassilis Magginas has proposed that the 155 pension funds should be cut drastically as a means of helping to make more viable the system that could go bust as soon as a decade from now. The conservative government says that it currently pays around 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to support pensions and fears the amount could reach as high as 25 percent by 2050 unless swift action is taken. A call for talks to find common ground on pension system reforms in a parliamentary economic committee have been turned down by labor unions and left-wing political opposition parties. The third round of parliamentary talks is to be held today with socialists PASOK expected to unveil their ideas after initially walking out of the talks. The conservatives are hoping to pass the changes through Parliament in the first half of next year. Meanwhile, strike action over the proposed reforms continued. Schoolteachers went on strike yesterday with some 2,000 of them marching through central Athens. Today the journalists’ union will strike for 24 hours, resulting in a nationwide media blackout. There will be no newspapers tomorrow.