Cred­i­tors in­sis­tent on pen­sions

Of­fi­cials in back-to-back meet­ings af­ter Eurogroup chief says so­cial se­cu­rity re­form still on agenda of talks

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials spent much of yes­ter­day locked in talks as the coun­try’s cred­i­tors in­sisted that an over­haul of the pri­vate la­bor sec­tor and pen­sions both re­main the fo­cus of the cur­rent round of bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The key trig­ger for the talks was a doc­u­ment writ­ten by the chair­man of the group of eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters, Jeroen Di­js­sel­bloem, and pre­sented in the Dutch Par­lia­ment ahead of a Eurogroup meet­ing next week ac­cord­ing to which Greek pension re­forms must be tack­led in the sec­ond bailout re­view.

Re­spond­ing to re­ports yes­ter­day, in com- ments to the Athens-Mace­do­nian News Agency, La­bor Min­is­ter Gior­gos Ka­trouga­los hit back. “The pension is­sue was re­solved in the first re­view and is not go­ing to be re­opened in the sec­ond,” he said.

De­spite the strong words, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos and Ka­trouga­los held sev­eral hours of talks to de­ter­mine the progress that au­thor­i­ties have made in im­ple­ment­ing pension re­forms that were voted through Par­lia­ment ear­lier this year with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on the uni­fi­ca­tion of mul­ti­ple pension funds.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Greece’s cred­i­tors want the gov­ern­ment to take a series of ac­tions in­clud­ing col­lect­ing the out­stand­ing so­cial se­cu­rity con­tri­bu­tions of self-em­ployed pro­fes­sion­als with debts to the funds.

The au­thor­i­ties are re­luc­tant to re­open the pen­sions is­sue, which is ex­tremely po­lit­i­cally con­tentious, as pen­sion­ers ratchet up their protests over on­go­ing cut­backs.

Re­tirees are to hold an­other rally against fur­ther cuts to their in­comes to­mor­row at Kotzia Square in cen­tral Athens.

“The aux­il­iary pen­sions of Novem­ber will once again be slashed... and have now be­come noth­ing more than a tip,” the union rep­re­sent­ing pen­sion­ers said in a state­ment yes­ter­day. It also ac­cused Ka­trouga­los of at­tempt­ing to mis­lead re­tirees with prom­ises that pen­sions will be in­creased in due course.

Equally thorny for the gov­ern­ment is the is­sue of la­bor re­la­tions. For­eign au­di­tors are press­ing for au­thor­i­ties to ease laws and al­low more flex­i­bil­ity in the la­bor mar­ket so that strug­gling busi­nesses can fire more work­ers and the min­i­mum wage can be re­viewed yet again.

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