Pension talks must involve all sides

Social security reform has become the pivotal problem upon which the resolution of countless social and economic issues depends. As long as it remains unresolved, the threats to our society and economy will continue to multiply. The concern that is gripping workers and pensioners alike with regards to pension reform cannot be blamed on untimely or ill-considered initiatives. Quite the opposite. It is the very absence of any bold and serious approaches by successive governments which has brought the situation to a head. This is the result of the authorities’ chronic indecisiveness when faced with the structural flaws and self-perpetuating dysfunction of our social security system. No one can plead ignorance. The worrying facts we are already aware of were spelled out in well-documented observations made at the annual conference of the Union of Social Insurance Fund Employees (POPOKP). The most important and urgent observation was this: that the sense of uncertainty is being fueled by the possibility that the pension reform debate will remain open until general elections in 2008 – an eventuality that would increase the risk of workers abandoning their funds en masse in 2007 in a desperate bid to secure their rights. But the only certain outcome of such a move would be smaller pensions for workers, due to early termination, and losses for the funds too, due to premature pension outflows and smaller pension contributions. Further deferments cannot be justified. The government has been quite clear. It is imperative that a broad and open political and social dialogue on pension reform get under way immediately. Joining such a debate does not indicate submission, it is an obligation for all sides. It is the duty of opposition politicians and unionists to take part. Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis was quite right to note that «all governments of the past decades» bear responsibility for the current pension reform problem. But he was also quite clear in calling on all sides to participate in discussions.