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Spain’s government pressing unions on pension reform

Spain’s government will push this week for a deal with unions on its controversial pension reforms which it intends to present on Friday, the employment ministry said.

The country’s two main unions, the UGT and the CCOO, have voiced fierce opposition to the government’s plan to raise the legal retirement age from 65 to 67 as part of wider efforts to stabilise Spain’s strained public finances.

They have threatened another general strike if the measure is passed by the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. They staged a general strike in September over the government’s labour-market reforms.

CCOO secretary general Ignacio Fernandez Toxo has warned that reaching a deal would be “difficult.”

But the government intends to present the plan at a weekly cabinet meeting on Friday although negotiations with the unions will continue this week to try to forge a deal with them.

“The government is determined to reach an agreement on pensions,” Labour Minister Valeriano Gomez told a news conference on Monday.

The plan is to increase the retirement age gradually between 2013 and 2027 while those who have paid into the pension system for 41 years would still be allowed to retire at the age of 65, he added.

Spain is battling to slash a massive public deficit and soothe market fears that the country could be trapped in the kind of European debt quagmire that has swamped Greece and Ireland, forcing them to seek bailouts last year.

Gomez said the goal was to “ensure the stability of the pension system in the medium- and long-term” as the population ages.

The number of pensioners in Spain is expected to rise to 12 million from eight million currently over the next 30 years, he added.

Spain is among the eight European Union countries with the highest long-term budgetary cost of aging through 2060, according to the European Commission.