The Greek government on Friday submitted to parliament proposals for sweeping pension and labor market reforms that will raise retirement ages and make layoffs cheaper, sparking angry reactions from unions that have called a new general strike next week.
Labor Minister Andreas Loverdos said the draft law will make the debt-ridden country's pension system more rational and ensure its long-term viability.
"These reforms are absolutely necessary for the country and people paying social security and pension contributions," Loverdos told a press conference. "Our system had collapsed, and we have to rebuild it."
The proposed changes will raise the retirement age to 65 for everyone — up from 60 for women — and sets the necessary contribution years for a full pension at 40. Now, some Greeks can retire on a full pension at 35 years' contributions.
Loverdos said the draft law, if approved in parliament, would raise pension expenditure from the current 12.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product to 15.5 percent in 2060.
The draft law also lets companies sack employees with a warning of up to six months — from the current maximum 24 months. If warned, workers get half the compensation provided for sudden layoffs.
It will further allow companies with more than 150 employees to sack 5 percent of the work force every month, up from the current 2 percent. Smaller companies would be able to lay off a maximum of six workers.
Unions reject the proposals, which they say are unfair and possibly unconstitutional, and have called a general public and private sector strike for June 29 — the day a parliamentary committee is to start debating the draft law.
The Adedy civil servant umbrella union said Friday the pension reforms would "slaughter fundamental social security rights for existing pensioners and workers."
An Adedy statement said the proposals, if implemented, would raise retirement ages by up to 15 years for some categories of workers, and particularly hurt women.
"The increase in necessary contribution years, and the rise in retirement age of up to 10 years, even for women with three or more children — or with disabled children — without further measures proves (the government's) lack of sensitivity on huge social problems."
Adedy argued that the measures were unfair because women bear the burden of caring for children and elderly relatives in the absence of basic state-provided social services.
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