Pension bill to test PASOK unity

As controversial draft legislation foreseeing radical reform of the pension system and labor relations is submitted to Parliament’s plenary session today ahead of Thursday’s crucial vote, sources have told Kathimerini that at least three deputies of ruling PASOK are considering voting against some of the provisions in the bill. The general feeling in the office of Prime Minister George Papandreou is that the bill – which would reduce monthly payments to pensioners, increase the retirement age to 65 and make it easier for employers to dismiss staff – will be voted through Parliament on Thursday. But sources have told Kathimerini that three MPs have made clear their intentions to vote against certain articles in the bill, defying Papandreou’s calls for party unity. One of the three deputies, Panagiotis Kouroublis, stated his intentions outright yesterday. «I disagree with four or five provisions – the others I might vote for,» he told Sto Kokkino radio station. «Do I not have the right to express a different opinion?» he remarked. Sources told Kathimerini that another two deputies have a similar outlook to Kouroublis’s but did not identify them. A close aide to Papandreou told Kathimerini that the extent of the loyalty of PASOK’s cadres would become clear on Thursday. «We will see what happens on the day, and we will act accordingly,» the aide said, without elaborating. The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), which along with the civil servants’ union ADEDY has called a general strike for Thursday to protest the planned reforms, yesterday sent a letter to Labor and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos, pushing for concessions to be made to private sector workers. «Our disagreements [with the bill] remain completely unchanged. But we are obliged to intervene in a matter that affects the overwhelming majority of insured citizens,» the letter said. GSEE wants private sector employees insured with the Social Security Foundation (IKA) before 1983 to be exempted from the impending pension reforms, as is the case with civil servants insured with IKA before 1983.

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