OPINION

Defusing the time bomb

Some compare it to a time bomb. Skeptics have their doubts – but only about the time part. The only sure thing is that Greece’s social security system is in crisis. Funding from the state, employers and employees won’t be able to sustain it for much longer. Drastic measures are needed. Without doubt, the government is faced with an extremely sensitive social issue. The backlash that followed then labor and social security minister Tassos Giannitsis’s proposals of four years ago leaves little room for optimism. If past is prologue, we must brace for a major political fallout. Mass mobilizations back then showed that workers are not willing to back down from existing regulations. But the numbers are inexorable. One has to be extremely shortsighted or just deluded to fail to see the problem. Pressured by realities, even union leaders have been forced to abandon their former, intransigent «don’t-touch» attitude on the social security issue and actually propose a responsible dialogue for a viable settlement. The mere fact that the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSSE) has raised the issue is a sign of political responsibility and a move that should make things easier for the government and the political system in general. The gesture was prompted by research by the Labor Institute which was based on so-far unexploited data kept by the Social Security Foundation (IKA), with the aid of reliable actuarial models. The study refutes fatalism about imminent collapse of the funds, but at the same time it highlights the system’s limits. Overall, the research underscores the need for swift action. For certain, the GSSE initiative to open the social security issue was triggered by the pending integration of other funds with the IKA social security fund. But this does not change the fact that the union’s move presents the political class with an opportunity that we cannot afford to waste. The ball is in the government’s court. It’s time we heard a sober dialogue, free from prejudice and government bullying. Any measures should not just fall on the workers’ shoulders. A dialogue that meets all these conditions would lead to a mutual compromise among all stakeholders.