Thousands protest in Greece against pension overhaul


Athens (AFP)

Thousands protested in Greece on Tuesday against a new pension reform as a 24-hour strike paralysed transport and services.

Some 10,000 people demonstrated in the capital against the reform, which encourages a longer stay in the workforce, police said.

The labour action brought public transport in Athens, intercity trains and ferry ship services to a standstill.

Civil servants also walked off the job and journalists will stage a three-hour work stoppage against the pension reform.

"This bill is practically the continuation of (austerity) laws introduced in 2010-2019," civil servants' union ADEDY said.

Unions are also holding protests in Thessaloniki and other major cities.

The new conservative government says the reform, to be voted by Friday, will make the troubled Greek pension system viable to 2070.

The labour ministry says the overhaul -- the third major revamp in a decade -- will contain pension increases and reduce penalties for pensioners still working.

Successive governments have attempted to reform the pension system, whose previously generous handouts are seen as one of the causes of the decade-long Greek debt crisis.

"The government will pay dearly for the further dismantling of social insurance, as (its predecessors) did. The Greek people do not forget," said Communist party general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas.

A separate government bill to stiffen regulations on street protests is also causing anger among unions.

Chronic overspending and the inaccurate reporting of the budget deficit spooked creditors in 2010, and required three successive bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to avert a Greek bankruptcy.

In return for billions of euros in rescue funds, Greece had to adopt unpopular austerity reforms and pension cuts.