By Derek Gatopoulos, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ATHENS, Greece _ More than 2,000 pensioners chanting "We can't live on 300 euros" marched through central Athens Thursday to protest plans by the country's left-wing government to overhaul the pension system.
Protests took place in Athens and 12 other Greek towns and cities Thursday against the proposed reforms that would merge major funds and make the system less reliant on direct state funding.
Pension funds have been severely hit by a massive debt-restructuring deal in 2012, a fast aging population, and weak contributions due to high unemployment.
Already cut repeatedly during years of austerity measures, pensions have become a vital source of income for unemployed families, in a country with a limited welfare safety net and where extended family cohabitation is relatively common.
"Pensions will be cut. The cuts in health care are huge. We're at the point of not having health care, of not having medication. We can't just idly stand by," Yannis Antoniou, head of a bankers' pensioners association, said while joining the protesters on a peaceful march.
"It appears this government has decided not to leave anything standing. But we're also determined not just to sit back and do nothing."
The proposed reforms demanded by bailout creditors have further soured ties between the governing left-wing Syriza party and unions, which have called a general strike for Dec. 3, two days ahead of an austerity budget vote in parliament.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is struggling to contain renewed dissent within his left-wing Syriza party over the austerity measures. He has seen his majority in parliament cut to just three seats.
Tsipras, who is currently on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, called on the leaders of Greek opposition parties to hold an emergency meeting this weekend to seek consensus on the pension