Pension bill unsettles government

There was concern in the government yesterday that Greece might be appearing to renege on some commitments it has made to the European Commission and International Monetary Fund following comments made by a minister on TV on Monday that throw into doubt the date that pension reforms will come into effect. Speaking to private Mega Channel on Monday, Labor and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos said that the EC wants Greece to make pension reforms, which foresee an increase in the legal retirement age and reduced monthly payments, apply from 2015 as opposed to 2018, the date agreed upon in a pact signed with the EC and IMF. The EC said yesterday that it had made a written request for the measures to apply as of 2015 but that Athens had already agreed to this when it signed the loan agreement. Loverdos’s decision to draw attention to this discrepancy was the main topic of discussion in government circles yesterday, according to sources. The same sources said that many other cadres of ruling PASOK also have serious reservations about other provisions in the agreement signed between Greece on the one hand and the EU, IMF and European Central Bank on the other. Some reportedly fear that many of the measures are too harsh and will not be swallowed by the Greek public. The pension system overhaul is one of the reforms the government has committed to push through in exchange for a 110-billion-euro aid package. The government’s pension reform bill, which was due for submission in Parliament this week, is vehemently opposed by workers’ unions, which describe it «unacceptable» and «outrageous» as it increases the number of years one has to work to get a full pension and abolishes entitlements enjoyed for decades by thousands of civil servants and other labor groups. Last week the country’s two main unions, the civil servants’ union ADEDY and the Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), which together represent close to 3 million workers, staged a 24-hour strike and protest rally against proposed the pension reforms. Loverdos’s draft law is aimed at ensuring that Greece’s pension system, now teetering on the brink of collapse, will be viable in years to come but also means that, before the end of this decade, the basic monthly retirement payment will be just 360 euros. According to Deputy Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis, the reforms would result in an average reduction in pensions of 7 percent by 2030.

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