Defying Court, SYRIZA Won’t Return Slashed Pension Benefits

FILE - Pensioners sit outside a shoe shop as they take part in a rally near the Finance Ministry in central Athens, on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Greece’s Deputy Social Insurances Minister Tassos Petropoulos said it would not be in the “public interest” for the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition to repay pensioners annual two-month holiday bonuses that were cut as part of austerity measures that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras swore to reject but implemented on orders of international creditors.

That came afer a first instance court in Thessaloniki ruled in favor of six municipal workers who argued elimination of the bonuses was unconstitutional and the court reportedly required the state to return roughly 2,000 euros ($2281) each.

Petropoulos said the Council of State (CoS) ruled that only pensioners who have sued or gone to the courts could get repaid if they won a judgment, as the decision set off a stampede of others going that route.

Petropoulos, an attorney who had represented labor groups against the state is now representing the state against workers and pensioners. He said that the court decision ruled that a maximum 16.2-percent ceiling in Greece’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for social security spending has been ruled constitutional, setting up a clash of legal findings.

He suggested that lawyers were “fishing” for customers amid speculation that pension cuts will be reversed by the courts. Before taking power in January, 2015, Tsipras said cutting pensions was a Red Line he wouldn’t cross before jumping over to get a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($98.1 billion) from the Troika of the European Union-European Stability Mechanism-European Central Bank (EU-ESM-ECB).