Fight to Save the Greek Pension Takes Centre Stage in Brussels and Athens

Manolis Rallakis likes to take to the streets to fight for his rights. Battles have come and gone – but always been won. “The lost battle is the battle never fought,” says the retired metal worker, his eyes fixed in a steely glare – “and now we are fighting the battle of our lives.” Seated in his lounge adorned with prints on orange walls, the 75-year-old embodies the Greek trade unionist par excellence: Rallakis is general secretary of the federation of Greek pensioners. Rallakis’s fighting spirit might have gone unnoticed if the row over pensions and the need for reform were not also at the heart of the prolonged standoff between Greece and its international lenders keeping it afloat. In the five years that debt-stricken Athens has struggled to remain solvent – surviving on rescue loans issued by the EU, the ECB and the IMF –pensioners have disproportionately endured the austerity meted out in return for the bailouts.