PM in meeting with professional associations

25 January 2016
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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday presented a series of improvements the government is prepared to contemplate to its proposed pension reforms for the professional classes in a meeting with the heads of Greece’s professional associations, such as doctors and lawyers.

The meeting with the head of the Greece’s Technical Chamber George Stasinos, representing civil engineers and architects, the head of the Greek bar associations plenum Vassilis Alexandris and the president of the Panhellenic Medical Association Dr. Michael Vlastarakoswas was also attended by Labour Minister George Katrougalos, who drew up the proposed reforms.

Government sources said the prime minister emphasised the need to protect young professionals, as well as freelance workers and the unemployed, in order to make the pensions system viable and socially fair.

The prime minister asked for feedback on the government’s proposals, the sources said, adding that the government is keeping channels of communication with all the social partners open and is determined to proceed with the reforms through substantive and sincere social dialogue.

The proposals included three measures lowering contributions for professionals in the first five years and two measures designed to ease the burden on unemployed professionals by exempting them from social insurance contributions and providing unemployment benefit, as well as transitional measures for a gradual rise in social insurance contributions for incomes above 12,000 euros annually.

Tsipras also proposed a reduction in the amount in social insurance contribution paid by freelance workers from 20 pct to 6pct, while the remaining portion must be paid by employers.

In statements after the meeting, Katrougalos said he was confident about the outcome of negotiations with creditors on the pension system and stressed that the government will not back down from its “non-negotiable” positions.

“We are in an open dialouge with society and a negotiation with the Quartet; we know that the negotiation will be tough. We know, however, that despite the reactions we get from society, our measures are in society’s favour, they are just, supporting equality, supporting equality before the law and social justice,” he said..

He dismissed as “glaringly inaccurate” claims that those hardest hit by proposed reforms were those earning less than 10,000 euros, noting that this group actually gained under the new system
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Katrougalos said the government had sent the institutions a detailed breakdown of the projected costs until 2060, though some of the parameters – such as the size of projected GDP growth and unemployment – could also be the subject of negotiation.

He said the government wants to table the draft bill in Parliament as soon as possible, since it was crucial for completing the first review and started talks on restructuring Greece’s debt. He said the missions from the institutions were expected in Athens on Wednesday and that he would be leaving on that day to visit the EuroParliament in order to discuss the government’s proposal.

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