Reforms held back for tweaking

Controversial reforms to the country’s pension system, expected to raise retirement ages and abolish privileges, are to be submitted in Parliament early next week as the debt-ridden government’s international creditors remain unsatisfied with the draft bill as it stands, sources said yesterday. One of the issues that remains to be resolved relates to the bonus pension payments disbursed in summer and at Easter and Christmas. Sources told Kathimerini that officials from the European Commission and International Monetary Fund want to see these payments abolished. Labor and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos is expected to resist these demands and, sources say, Prime Minister George Papandreou may even intervene on the issue, deemed to be particularly sensitive. Another unresolved matter is the age at which single mothers will be able to retire, sources told Kathimerini, noting that all the necessary amendments will be made by Friday and the revised bill submitted in Parliament by Monday. Changes to labor relations that would make it easier for employers to lay off staff and change the way that severance pay is calculated are to be included in the same bill as the pension reform instead of being submitted in a presidential decree, as originally intended. Yesterday Loverdos introduced some amendments to the labor relations bill during a session of Parliament’s social affairs committee. The changes include an increase in the notice employers are obliged to give to staff they plan to dismiss (to six months from four months for employees with more than 20 years of service) and a provision that ensures young workers receive the minimum wage of 740 euros. Fears that some deputies from the ruling party would vote against the proposed reforms abated yesterday as Loverdos faced little criticism from fellow PASOK deputies. On Monday, Papandreou had called on ministers to make it clear they support Loverdos in the tough task of pushing through hugely unpopular reforms.