Greek workers march to parliament to protest pension reform

International creditors demanding changes

ATHENS, (Reuters) — Greek workers marched through the streets of Athens on Saturday to protest against the leftist-led government's planned pension reform which the country's international creditors have demanded as part of its third bailout.

About 3,000 public and private sector workers, pensioners and students rallied peacefully outside parliament. They held banners reading "You cannot bargain with social security" and chanted "Your hands off our pensions!"

"We will fight to protect our rights and force the government to withdraw this monstrous plan that it calls a reform," the secretary-general of private sector union GSEE, Nikos Kioutsoukis, told Reuters.

Turnout in recent protests has been weak, mainly due to austerity fatigue and resignation after five years of belt-tightening and two bailouts that have shut businesses and pushed up unemployment but have not pulled Greece out of the crisis.

On Feb. 4, labor unions will stage a 24-hour general strike against the planned reform, the third such walkout in three months. Turnout will indicate the level of resistance the government faces as it pushes through tough measures.

This week lawyers staged one of their biggest rallies in recent years and they have threatened to step up labor action. Farmers are also gearing up for road and border crossing blockades against the planned pension cuts and social security contribution increases.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was first elected a year ago promising to end austerity. After tough negotiations he signed up to a third bailout in July and was re-elected in September on a mandate to implement it while protecting the vulnerable.

Greece's first bailout review is expected to officially begin next week. The lenders currently see a fiscal gap of well over 1.5 percent of GDP for 2016, according to sources close to the talks, and expect tough talks on pension reform.

"We will defend what is non-negotiable for us," Labour Minister George Katrougalos told Skai TV.

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