A taboo is no more, but not its perks

As recently as 10 years ago, making even a passing reference to privatizing a public enterprise was almost taboo, and particularly unwise for any Greek government. Since then attitudes have been transformed, with half of Greeks believing that it is necessary for rehabilitating and modernizing utilities, according to a nationwide survey. The study, conducted by Metron Analysis between June 16 and 27 on behalf of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and presented yesterday, shows that 49 percent of the population is in favor of privatization and 38.6 percent against. In spite of the clear change in attitude as to ownership status, Greek public opinion is still against a reduction in the comparatively good pay of those employed in public utilities and the lifting of restrictions on firing, with respective rates of 77 percent and 63.4 percent. Furthermore, most people do not seem to accept the government’s argument that its reforms will be effective in reducing inequalities among employees. As many as 84.9 percent consider governments, rather than working people, are primarily responsible for deficits. At the same time, 53.5 percent consider that discriminating between pre- and post-1992 hired employees for social insurance purposes undermines social cohesion. Further interest is found in the answers concerning the currently burning issues of overtime work, bolstering managers’ rights in rearranging work hours and making them more flexible to suit an enterprise’s seasonal requirements. Some 45.6 percent believes that GSEE must agree to debate the issue, which it has been refusing, but together with employers and in the framework of collective bargaining – rather than the government, which is promoting the relevant legislation. But 54.2 percent still urge GSEE not to accept flexible working hours and 53.5 percent oppose reducing overtime pay, even in exchange for a 39-hour week.

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