NEWS

Draft law targets early retirement

The government yesterday unveiled a bill on pension reforms, which envisages incentives to keep employees in work longer, as union groups vowed to keep up protest action. «This is a major reform as it addresses the heart of the problem and creates prospects for decades to come,» said Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, without giving any details on the size of savings that will accrue from the reforms. Among the major changes foreseen is the reduction of Greece’s 133 pension and health funds currently overseen by the Labor Ministry to just 13 umbrella funds. In addition, the bill introduces incentives to discourage employees from opting for early retirement and establishes a new «super fund» to help cover the pension needs of workers retiring after 2019. The changes will gradually be implemented as of 2009 and in the case of private sector workers will be applicable only to those who began their insured working life after 1992. The changes will also raise the retirement age for women who started working in 1993 to 65 years, from 62, matching the retirement age of men. Unions have opposed the bill, saying it threatens their pension rights. Greece’s largest trade union umbrella organization, GSEE, announced a 24-hour general strike on March 19, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the draft law. George Papandreou, the leader of PASOK that withdrew its pension reforms when in government in 2001, said workers will be forced to bear the brunt of the changes. «The reforms will only place an extra burden on workers and pensioners,» he said.