ATHENS – One of the sticking points in stalled talks with international lenders – cutting pensions again – will likely be set back even if a deal is made now.
Pensions were one of the red lines drawn by Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras but Kathimerini said he’s set to relent, but that a final decision wouldn’t be made until the fall.
That came as several SYRIZA officials, as Greece goes broke, said Tsipras will have to give in and cut pensions despite his vow never to do that.
Alternate Social Security Minister Dimitris Stratoulis said a so-called zero deficit clause – according to which the state would no longer be permitted to subsidize pension funds’ shortfalls – would be indefinitely suspended.
That came after remarks by Giorgos Romanias, a Ministry General Secretary that enforcement of the clause would be postponed.
Prominent SYRIZA MP Alexis Mitropoulos said whether the clause is postponed or abolished, as SYRIZA promised, that more pension cuts were coming.
Mitropoulos’s comments in turn prompted a statement from Labor Minister Panos Skourletis who said a broader debate on the Greek pension system, aimed at “radical reform,” would begin in the fall.
Stratoulis also said that talks on pension reform would begin in September and that there would be a “broad national dialogue.” He said a proposal being prepared on behalf of the government by labor expert Savvas Robolis, foreseeing ways of covering deficits at pension funds, would be ready.
Skourletis said a deal with Greece’s creditors would be reached “with decent terms” and that SYRIZA would go ahead and bring back collective bargaining for workers and restore the minimum wage to 751 euros a month, defying the lenders.
Pensions have been cut 30 percent or more and lump sums slashed 38 percent – which Greek courts declared unconstitutional in an ruling that’s not been forced. But the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) said the benefits are too generous and want them slashed again, although some elderly are living on 300 euros ($336.19) a month – before taxes.