NEWS

Reform tweak in effort to pacify strikers

The conservative government is considering making some minor modifications to its social security reforms as a means of winning over opponents to the controversial changes as worker strike action picks up again today. A senior government source said one or two small changes could serve as a goodwill gesture toward some unhappy ruling party deputies that have come under enormous pressure from voters and union groups. One possible change is allowing workers to retire after 37 years without having to reach the age of 57, the source said. The conservatives, who hold 151 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, cannot risk losing the support of any MPs in its effort to push through reforms. A draft bill on the changes was presented to lawmakers last week amid a wave of protest action that has brought different parts of the country to a halt. Power cuts continue around Greece as Public Power Corporation (PPC) employees strike, claiming that the reforms harm their rights. Additionally, piles of rubbish have been growing on Athens streets as municipal workers have stayed away from their job since last week. Meanwhile, the possibility of forcing striking employees back to work through the use of a law that in effect requisitions their services has been dismissed. «There is no such issue,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos yesterday. The government hopes that dropping the threat of forcing workers back to work will prevent the unions intensifying their protest actions. However, Athens commuters will once again have their patience tested as workers at the metro and Athens-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) go on a 24-hour strike today. Bank employees have also launched a 48-hour strike as of today, in a move likely to affect a number of banking operations, while engineers and lawyers will continue their strike action.