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Greek retirees demonstrate against fresh round of pension cuts
November 04,2016   By:Xinhua
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ATHENS, Nov. 4, 2016 -- Thousands of Greek retirees returned to the streets of central Athens on Thursday to rally against the fresh round of pension cuts implemented by the government under bailout agreements.
According to a letter they received by Labor Minister Yorgos Katrougalos a few days ago, the new reductions on supplementary pensions introduced this summer were necessary to safeguard the sustainability of pension funds.
Once the national economy recovers, pensioners will receive raises, the letter read.
The disgruntled protesters who marched to the Labor Ministry and the parliament are not convinced. After six years of harsh austerity measures they cannot stand any more cuts, representatives of retirees' associations and protesters said, rejecting the "tips" their pensions have turned into.
"We got 50 euros (about 55.5 U.S. dollars) for supplementary pension. They should be ashamed," Rodoula Gennimata told Xinhua as protesters were chanting slogans such as "We are starving and they are selling us off" or "We are not retreating until we see justice".
"In 2010 I was receiving 637 euros and today 209.3 euros. I am disabled and they slashed my pension because the state can no longer pay," Mr. Yannis said, showing his bank account book.
"Here are the documents. 422 euros gross salary and now it dropped to 228 euros," Panagiotis Badourakakis added, also showing the latest receipts of his pension payments.
"It is a fraud. They are deceiving us. What else can we say?" protestor Yorgos Petsas said, after reading the headlines on the front pages of dailies at kiosks.
"New haircut on pensions through recalculations" read the front page of "Eleftheros Typos" (Free Press).
According to Dimos Koubouris, President of the Federation of Pensioners of IKA, the largest social insurance fund in Greece, the average reduction in supplementary pensions since 2010 have reached 82 percent, and in main pensions 45 percent.
The reductions are added to cuts in welfare spending and the extra burden pensioners have shouldered in recent years by supporting their jobless children and grandchildren.
According to a recent survey of the Greek National Statistics Authority (ELSTAT), 52 percent of households in Greece today live on the pensions of their older members.
According to Labor Ministry data, the average pension in Greece today stands at 664 euros per month and supplementary pension at 168 euros before tax.
"I have grandchildren and a sick child. What can I do?" Ms Katerina asked, speaking to Xinhua on Thursday shortly before the protest ends with the burning of copies of minister Katrougalos' letter.
"In a symbolic action we will return their letters, Mr Katrougalos' letter, back in the same way he burned our life," Koubouris addressed the crowd through a loudspeaker outside the Labor Ministry.
"All pensioners will burn these letters, sending the message that our struggle will continue, sending the message that our struggle will grow stronger until we reverse these policies, until we get back the pensions we have paid for. They are ours. We have paid for these pensions with our blood," he said.
Despite the rounds of cuts since 2010 data show that pension funds are collapsing due to deficits. Due to high unemployment rates and a rise in undeclared labor contributions to the funds have dropped significantly and after seven years of recession overdue contributions have exceeded 30 billion euros. (1 euro= 1.11 U.S. dollars)
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