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Greeks protest against pensions reform

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Thousands of demonstrators gathered Saturday in Greece to protest against a controversial, debt-dictated pension reform proposal that includes cuts, higher contributions and tougher retirement rules.

Protesters rallied around banners warning “hands off social insurance”, and also denouncing the “selling off” of public benefits, following the government’s announcement of a three-year privatisation drive in key sectors.

The main labour federations, the GSEE with one million members, and ADEDY which numbers 370,000, organised the Athens-based protest, which is expected to extend to Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki in the north.

A strike is also planned for when the pensions reform proposal, which includes increasing the minimum retirement age to 65, and reducing pensions is presented to parliament later this month.

Greece has accumulated a debt of nearly 300 billion euros (368 billion dollars) and was narrowly saved from default in May by the first instalment of an 110-billion-euro bailout loan from the EU and the IMF.

The government had to adopt unpopular austerity measures to clinch the loan, including tax hikes, wage and pension cuts and a hiring freeze in the civil service.

Athens, June 5, 2010 (AFP)