ECONOMY

In Brief

Cement plant’s future in doubt as strike comes to an end Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) Chairman Odysseas Kyriakopoulos hinted at the possible closure of AGET Heracles’s cement factory in Halkida, northeast of Athens, which has been largely shut down because of labor disputes in the past week. «In the private sector, jobs that are not real cannot be maintained… We cannot rule out a closure of the factory,» Kyriakopoulos said at yesterday’s press briefing. The company has said that for the plant to be considered competitive, it must operate with about 250 workers, instead of today’s 650. Standing differences with respect to overtime work and conditions were exacerbated after a cement-truck drivers’ strike brought the plant to a standstill last week. Management ended the contract of the plant union head, Giorgos Hadzidionysiou, after a sit-in but the move is subject to adjudication in January. Production is gradually being restored after the drivers’ return to work. AGET Heracles, majority owned by Lafarge, is said to be considering a number of options for cost-cutting, while workers, by an overwhelming majority, authorized their union to call mobilizations at will. Unions warn against changes to social insurance system Labor unions will not allow changes in the country’s pension and social insurance system that will trim the rights of workers, umbrella organization GSEE Chairman Christos Polyzogopoulos said in a written statement, in apparent response to a report issued on Tuesday by the EU Social Affairs Directorate, headed by Greek Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou. The report, comparing the pension systems of the 15 member-states, said Greece’s system costs too large a share of GDP, projected to rise from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 22.6 percent by 2050, a much faster rate than in any other member. The country’s pension system was just reformed earlier this year. Balkan business The presence of most Greek enterprises in neighboring Balkan countries has evolved under pressure for cost-cutting and without specific growth strategies, said George Mylonas, chairman of the aluminium products Aloumil group which has plants in Bulgaria and Romania and expects to open two more in Belgrade and Tirana. «Just 2 percent of Greek firms active in the Balkans today can show a long-term program,» he said at Thessaloniki’s Macedonia University. Mylonas said the influx of mostly Greek clothing firms in southern Bulgaria has raised wages and the original cost advantage has been more than halved; most schemes were joint ventures with local entrepreneurs, who exploited their more intimate knowledge of local realities to profit at the expense of their partners. He warned that Greek business people must stop overestimating the potential of these countries, where their partners will soon become their competitors. Aloumil is one of Greece’s biggest aluminium profile producers. Film-tourism wedding The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) is planning to use the runaway success of Oscar-hopeful «My Big Greek Fat Wedding» to advertise the country’s attractions in a special edition of Modern Bride magazine. Each of the 7.2 million copies will be accompanied by a DVD of the film, GNTO said.