Labor issues on table as talks with troika go down to the wire

Government officials held a series of meetings on Friday in a bid to galvanize Greece’s position on a series of key points of contention with the troika ahead of a late night meeting with the foreign auditors as sources said officials were still hoping for a deal by Sunday night.

According to sources, the key stumbling blocks in the negotiations are over the extent of structural reforms that Greece must enforce to boost competition as well as a delayed overhaul of the civil service. But troika officials are also said to be pushing for the scrapping of automatic wage increases for those on minimum pay, which is currently set at 586.08 euros per month. Greek officials are expected to object to any measures that would exacerbate unemployment, which is already at record levels, but sources indicated that the government could accept the revocation of the automatic wage increases in the case of the long-term unemployed.

The troika is also believed to be pushing for restrictions to layoffs in the private sector to be lifted and for an additional 2,000 civil service redundancies in 2015 even though the government has insisted that further dismissals in the public sector – beyond the 15,000 for this year and next – are out of the question.

Another matter to be discussed over the weekend is that of the primary surplus Greece is expected to post and the bulk of which Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has pledged to distribute to low-income pensioners and members of the police and security services who have seen their salaries slashed. Samaras has promised to give 70 percent of a primary surplus for 2013, which Athens estimates at more than 1.5 billion euros, to vulnerable social groups. But the troika reportedly wants the sum to be drawn from the amount by which Greece overshoots its 2014 primary surplus target of 2.9 billion euros.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras met with several of his cabinet peers on Friday ahead of a fresh round of talks with the troika over the weekend; those were to begin with a meeting late on Friday night between troika envoys and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who has been tasked with overseeing the bulk of the structural reforms.