Reforms face legal test

The government faced fresh opposition to its planned pension and labor reforms yesterday, from within its own ranks and beyond, as the Court of Audit said at least five provisions in the proposed changes violate the Constitution and several professional unions and associations said they were planning legal challenges against the changes. The first appeals are expected to be made over the next few days by the Athens Bar Association (ABA), the civil servants’ union ADEDY and a union representing retired public servants, sources told Kathimerini. According to sources, there are fears that these suits could pave the way for similar challenges from other groups. The president of the ABA, Dimitris Paxinos, said the goal of the action was «to protect the fundamental rights of citizens and of social groups affected by the proposed reforms.» According to officials of the Court of Audit, who have been scouring the text of the proposed draft bill, at least five of the provisions violate the Constitution; these include the article foreseeing the merging of the civil servants’ pension fund with the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and another allowing the level of pensions to be determined by a ministerial decision rather than legislative reform. The content of the controversial reforms – drafted on the basis of a memorandum co-signed by Greece and its international creditors – was the focus of vehement debate in Parliament yesterday. Prime Minister George Papandreou clashed with opposition leaders accusing his government of betraying the Greek public. Responding to charges of hypocrisy leveled against him by the leader of main opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, Papandreou said, «You don’t want to erase the memorandum but your memories – of your responsibilities, your actions that have brought us to this deadlock.» Tensions also peaked behind the scenes during a session of ruling PASOK’s political council. Labor and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos and Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou came under fire from other council members over the planned reforms. Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis responded saying the bill was a good opportunity for much-needed improvements in Greece. «We must be a government of change,» he said.

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