Pension, labor disputes dog Greek talks as cash dwindles

Mon May 4, 2015 7:59am EDT
 
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By George Georgiopoulos and Jan Strupczewski

ATHENS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Wide differences over pension and labor reforms continued to dog intensive negotiations between Greece's leftist government and its international creditors despite progress in other areas as the country's cash position becomes increasingly critical.

Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis sounded the alarm on Monday, saying that while Athens intended to meet all its payment obligations, including nearly 1 billion euros to the IMF in May, it needed fresh funds before the end of the month.

"Liquidity is a pressing issue," Sakellaridis told a news conference. "The Greek government is not waiting until the end of May for a liquidity injection. It expects this liquidity to be offered to the Greek economy as soon as possible."

Labor Minister Panos Skourletis said the International Monetary Fund, Greece's second biggest creditor after euro zone governments, was insisting on tough policy conditions for an interim deal to unlock frozen bailout aid.

The global lender was unyielding in demands for pensions cuts, rules to ease mass layoffs of private sector workers and opposition to a government plan to raise the minimum wage, Skourletis told Mega TV.

"They are asking us to not touch anything (of the austerity measures) that have ruined Greek people's lives in the last five years," he said.

"The IMF is the most inflexible side ... the most extreme voices of the Brussels Group," the minister said. "But there are also calmer voices."

Greece faces repayments to the IMF totaling 970 million euros by May 12. It has been borrowing from municipalities and government entities to meet obligations.   Continued...

 
A man holding a Greek national flag and a placard walks in Constitution (Syntagma) Square in Athens May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis