The Greek capital saw a third day of rallies as the parliament prepared to vote on a series of reforms including tax hikes and pension cuts. Athens is hoping to push through the reforms required by the international creditors ahead of crunch talks on Monday.
Greece’s largest trade union General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) called the measures ‘the last nail in the coffin’ for workers and pensioners already squeezed by six years of austerity.
“They are trying to prove to the Eurogroup that they are good students but they are destroying Greece’s social security system,” a GSEE official said.
At the rally, unemployed teacher Liana Korobili (37) explained that the young are without “social benefits, health care, decent salaries and most of us, not even a job,” adding, “We can not live like this. We can not live in the 21st century with 19th century working conditions.”
“If my parents face further cuts on their wages and pensions, I don ‘t know how we will survive. Most of my friends come from poor families and we can hardly cover our basic needs.”
The proposed tax reforms would lower the income tax-free threshold to 8,363 euros, going back on previous pledges that it wouldn’t pass the ‘red line’ of 9,100 euros.
Athens has been told to cut its annual pension bill – one of the eurozone’s most expensive – by 1.3 billion euros. Greece has almost 2.7 million pensioners and a working population of 3.7 million. The average gross pension is 960 euros per month. The proposed legislation would cut higher levels of pensions by up to 40 percent. Defending the measures, the prime minister said that the overhaul was needed to prevent the pension system from collapsing and would spare the poorest. Since 2010, the pension entitlements have been cut ten times. Greeks blame their politicians, who point the finger at their international creditors.
The package of measures is worth around 5.4 billion euros asked for by creditors. The SYRIZA-led coalition has a slim majority of just three seats in the 300-member parliament.