Political leaders attempt to thrash out deal

Despite intense pressure from foreign creditors to agree to the conditions of a second bailout without delay, the leaders of the three political parties that make up the country’s shaky coalition government remained locked in talks late on Wednesday night with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

The meeting, which started three days late as negotiations with Greece’s lenders dragged on, was still in session after six hours of talks as party leaders had reservations about some of the measures set out in an outline agreement for the new bailout.

The three leaders perused the document earlier on Wednesday.

But conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, whose party is leading in polls, reportedly continued to object to planned cuts to auxiliary pensions and, according to sources, was angered by a Greek translation of the troika’s document, complaining that it included additional measures not featured in the original.

The head of right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, is said to have asked for legal advice from Greek courts about whether some of the measures in the agreement are in line with the Constitution.

Socialist PASOK leader George Papandreou appears to have been the most conciliatory of the three.

At one point, Papademos interrupted the meeting to telephone European Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker in order to relay the party leaders’ reservations.

Juncker confirmed earlier Wednesday that a scheduled summit of eurozone finance ministers would go ahead on Thursday.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is expected to attend following a cabinet meeting where the list of the proposed measures is to be discussed.

The 50-page document details the austerity measures and reforms Greece will have to agree to to secure a crucial 130-billion-euro bailout.

As anticipated, auxiliary pensions are to be cut by 15 percent. But creditors also propose the reduction by 15 percent of the pensions paid to employees of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), OTE telecom and state-backed banks.

Many changes are also foreseen for the private sector. The monthly minimum wage, which is currently at 751 euros, is to be reduced by 22 percent. It will be cut by an additional 10 percent for those aged under 25 in a bid to tackle youth unemployment, which stands at around 40 percent.

The duration of collective labor contracts is to be restricted to three years. Thereafter, the terms of the contracts will apply for just three months, after which employers will be free to negotiate wages with workers.

There will be no automatic pay rises until unemployment -- now at 19 percent -- falls below 10 percent.

The document also foresees an end to permanent jobs for employees in public enterprises and state-controlled banks.

Other measures are a 2 percent cut in social security contributions paid by employers and a 3 percent reduction in contributions to the Social Security Foundation (IKA).

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