NEWS

Pension bill passage hitch

The controversial pension reform bill was voted through Parliament article by article late on Wednesday night but, invoking a parliamentary technicality, PASOK prevented the draft law being passed as a whole in the early hours yesterday, which means that MPs will have to return to the House on Wednesday. The bill was on the verge of being passed in total before PASOK’s intervention, which is designed to prolong the debate on the reforms and appears to have given some unions an opportunity to continue their strikes. Employees at the Bank of Greece, for instance, announced yesterday that they will stay away from work on Monday. The action by the central bank employees has already caused difficulties in the country’s banking system with banks unable to pay pensions and wages. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis criticized the opposition for holding up what seems to be the inevitable final step before the official promulgation of the law. «The opposition lost yet another opportunity to appear trustworthy as it is embroiled in populist wrangling,» said the premier. «Governing requires making tough decisions for the good of the people. Nice words fade away but problems remain if you ignore them,» Karamanlis told his opponents. PASOK forced the delay of the final stage in passing the bill by invoking parliamentary protocol that requires the vote on the draft law as a whole to take place 24 hours after the vote on the individual articles. Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MP Alekos Alavanos demanded the government call a referendum on the pension reforms. The country’s two main unions GSEE and ADEDY have already begun collecting signatures in support of Alavanos’s demand ahead of next Wednesday’s vote. It remains to be seen if other unions also go on strike next week. Municipal workers returned to work yesterday as refuse collectors began collecting the garbage that had piled up in Athens over the course of more than two weeks. It is expected that the cleanup could take more than a week.