Greek public sector unions and communists plan to hold two rallies Friday night to oppose measures designed to address significant economic problems.
In the face of international pressure, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is proposing critical national reforms. The plan will cut welfare and scale back pensions, among other things. The reforms aren’t just designed to fix the economy, they include provisions required by the international community to secure a third bailout. Prominent union and communist leaders, however, are opposed.
The Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) and the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) are holding two separate rallies to oppose the reforms, reports newspaper Kathimerini. PAME is an affiliate of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). ADEDY plans to hold its rally outside Parliament.
Unions demanded back in July that the international community offer financial support to Greece without expecting reform. The European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led much of the effort to help the country. They negotiated a deal with Tsipras July 13 to unlock the bailout.
Though Greece has faced financial trouble for a while, it wasn’t until 2009 things got really bad. In that year, Greece went from a fiscal crisis to a sovereign debt crisis. This eventually caused the country to go into a recession. Growing unemployment, early retirement, horribly-run welfare programs, declining labor standards, complacent and corrupt officials and powerful unions have all been blamed for the financial problems.
Pensions and other costly benefits are well protected by unions in the country. In the past when the government tried to do something to rein in benefits, unions mobilize workers, held rallies and put significant political pressure to stop the reforms.
As part of the deal, the country will agree to pensions cuts, increase taxes and agree to international oversight. Implementation of the reforms will require legislative approval. According to the IMF, one of the most costly programs is pensions. The retirement plans account for around 17 percent of the country’s GDP.
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