Employers’ offer of pay raises still too ‘distant’ to labor unions Employers’ organizations yesterday broke with established practice in negotiations over pay pacts with labor unions by proposing remuneration in specific sums instead of via percentage increases. The proposal envisages a lump sum monthly increase of 29 euros for the lowest-paid daily wage earner of 23.2 euros, which amounts to about a 5 percent raise; also, a uniform monthly increase of 26 euros for the lowest-paid salaried workers irrespective of years of service, which amounts to increases of about 4 percent. According to initial estimates, the average pay raises proposed by employers amount to about 4.5 percent. Umbrella labor group GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos said the proposal will be assessed but the distance from the average 8 percent pay raise initially demanded by unions remains too large and he believes the negotiations are more likely to fail. Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) president Odysseas Kyriakopoulos said the «new philosophy» closes the gap between the lowest and mid-level incomes and that further increases for productivity gains might be feasible according to sector. «In some businesses, productivity has been falling,» he said. Construction activity slows down in December, but 2003 total higher The volume of construction activity declined 17.4 percent in December, closing the 2003 total with an increase of 2.3 percent over 2002, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said. The number of building licenses fell 0.1 percent. Private construction activity rose 1.5 percent in volume in 2003; in regional terms, the biggest increase was registered in the northern Aegean (22.9 percent), and the biggest decline in western Greece (-13 percent). The rate of increase in mortgage loans, which fuel private construction, slowed to 25 percent from 35.6 percent in 2002. According to Bank of Greece data, property prices in urban areas advanced 5.7 percent in 2003, against 13 percent in 2002. In the Attica area, the respective rates were 4 percent and 16.2 percent. Public construction activity has a 5.6 percent share in the total. Bond loans The five listed members of metallurgy group Viohalco (Greece’s largest exporter), Elval, ETEM, Halcor, Sidenor and Hellenic Cables, are to issue bond loans totaling 375 million euros, with a view to reducing long- and short-term debt, according to a plan approved by shareholders. Separately, energy group Alfa Alfa Holdings and construction firm ALTE will issue bond loans of 10 million euros each in order to reduce a debt approaching 340 million. Greek-Turkish business The Greek Businesswomen’s Association (SEGE) is organizing a delegation to the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce on April 25 and 26. For more information, tel 2310.252.331. Credit card Omega Bank is issuing the Visa credit card for the Notos Com retailing group (Notos Galleries Visa), which has no subscription fee and offers rebates and discounts of up to 10 percent. Applications can be filed at the Notos Com stores.