Greek pensioners hold nationwide rallies to protest against cuts
Thousands of Greek pensioners have held rallies across the country to protest against the government’s planned pension cuts demanded by international lenders under the cash-strapped country’s third bailout package.
On Thursday, more than 2,000 pensioners marched through central Athens to protest pension cuts and changes to social security contained in Greece’s budget plan for 2016.
The similar massive protest rallies also took place in more than a dozen other Greek cities and towns against the government’s planned pension reforms.
The angry demonstrators held placards and chanted anti austerity slogans during the protest rallies
Pensioner Christos Kirikas, who had come from the island of Evia to join a demonstration in the capital, told Reuters that the administration of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was to blame for the ongoing economic crisis.
“They need to hear us. They should be ashamed of themselves, these parties on the left who are starving us. I worked for 50 years of my life and now we are going hungry. Why is this happening?”
Chrysoula Papageorgiou, a 69-year-old protester, said that the cuts have resulted in dismantling of existing security system.
Aristides Manikas, a 87-year-old pensioner said, “I don’t have enough money left to buy candy for the kids, for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And they (the government) are trying to fool us. They need to look out for Greece, not for the foreigners.”
Greek pensioners march in central Athens on November 26, 2015, during an anti-austerity rally against pension cuts. (AFP photo)
The massive demonstrations come as Greece’s biggest public and private sector unions, representing about 2.6 million workers, plan a 24-hour strike against pension reform on December 3.
The December 3 work stoppage will be the second of its kind in the past month.
On November 12, thousands of workers flocked into the streets of the Greek capital city of Athens to express their anger at tax hikes and pension changes. Some 20,000 people took part in the walkout, which was called by the GSEE and the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY). There were sporadic clashes between demonstrators and police during the event.
The Greek labor ministry is also working on a new system under which state-guaranteed pensions will be reportedly cut by half — to a minimum of 384 euros — and the rest will depend on a person.
Earlier this month, the administration of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras approved a law, scrapping most early retirement benefits, raising the retirement age, increasing contributions for healthcare.
The legislation also includes plans to overhaul the country’s pension system, merging several pension funds into one and reducing supplementary pensions.
The regulation was passed in exchange for a three-year, 86-billion-euro (93-billion-dollar) bailout that Athens accepted recently from its creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – to save the Mediterranean state from crashing out of the eurozone.
In July, the government of Tsipras agreed to the demands for austerity measures by lenders in exchange for the multi-billion bailout deal.
The decision triggered outrage from Greeks, who argue Tsipras came to power in January on an anti-austerity platform. Greece has already received two bailouts in 2010 and 2012, worth a total of 240 billion euros (USD 272 billion) from its creditors following the economic crisis in the Southeast European country back in 2009.