04 July, 2005
The government's closely watched initiatives and overall strategy concerning the social security sector dominated a meeting at the prime minister's office on Saturday, two days after the government passed a bill on bank sector pension reform through Parliament.
In exiting the meeting, chaired by Premier Costas Karamanlis, Labour and Social Securities Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos echoed other top officials by stressing that it was not in the government's designs to change the overall social security framework within this four-year term of office.
He again stressed that contribution levels, maximum retirement ages and pension payments were also not being considered.
Besides the bank sector bill, which shifts thousands of bank employees to the primary state-run Social Security Foundation (IKA) and lays down the framework for unifying separate banks' supplementary pension funds into one entity, the government also eagerly backed and subsequently approved of a ground-breaking early voluntary retirement plan for the state-run telephony provider (OTE).
Both initiatives, called nothing less than imperative by the New Democracy government for the social security system's future solvency as well as long-term economic development in the east Mediterranean country, were met by fiery opposition from other political parties and the trade union movement. Charges by the latter included criticism that state coffers would unduly pay for the reforms; that private interests benefited more that the state or taxpayers and that junior state-run banks' and OTE employees (hired after Jan. 1, 1993) would lose vested pension and employment benefits.
On his part, Panayiotopoulos said Saturday's discussion focused on the "day after" the bank sector bill's passage and its implementation by individual banks. In referring to a portion of criticism by trade unions, the minister said the bill spells out safeguards for jobs and pension rights.
Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, the other top minister who engineered the bill, also told reporters that a lengthy dialogue with social partners and other parties would be held to achieve consensus before any major reforms in social security.
Source: Athens News Agency