Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis branded «historic» Tuesday’s deal between telecom OTE and its staff unions that would introduce open-ended contracts into an industry where employees could never be fired. The deal lifts the permanent status of employees to be hired and offers open-ended contracts in return for an early voluntary retirement scheme. «The agreement between OTE’s management and unions has great significance, both for the future of the company itself and for the prospects of the economy,» said Alogoskoufis, congratulating the two sides for striking the deal. «Telecommunications is a strategic sector, OTE is the biggest company in this sector and its rehabilitation will have multiple positive effects.» He further stressed that it was through consensual procedures that this major structural change took place «and it sets an example for other public companies which also require sanitization. This is the policy we seek in order to have a new course for the economy.» Asked whether the OTE deal paves the way for similar developments at Emporiki and Agricultural Bank, Alogoskoufis made it clear that «the Agricultural and Emporiki issues are different. They are about social security. They are issues we must resolve, as the problem is burdening their and other banks’ position.» He also hinted at a government intervention on the above issue, saying that if the long dialogue between employers and employees «does not end somewhere in the next few days, the government will have to proceed for a solution for Emporiki and Agricultural Bank – a solution that will allow at a later point of time some other banks to follow under the same terms and conditions,» Alogoskoufis said, not ruling out that this solution could come through the increase of share capital. PPPs Separately, Alogoskoufis said the government will table a draft bill next month governing public-private partnerships (PPPs) in utility projects and services, which would save public money and improve services. «PPPs are a new instrument which can help the government provide infrastructure projects more efficiently and better services to citizens,» he told an event sponsored by the British Embassy. Alogoskoufis said the bill concerns small to medium-sized projects whose budgeted cost of construction or provision of services will not exceed 200 million euros. Larger projects will require individual legislative acts. A number of fields are excluded from the scope of PPPs, such as law and order, defense, justice and penitentiaries.