SEV: Business, unions must show restraint

The Federation of Greek Industrialists (SEV) yesterday called on all business and union representatives to show restraint whether the subject is wage demands, social security claims or the government’s legislative measures due to the impact on Greece’s competitiveness. «Everybody should show some self-restraint in going after they want, whether it’s wages or the country’s development,» SEV President Lefteris Antonakopoulos said. He said unreasonable demands could endanger Greece’s efforts to improve its competitiveness. Greece could find itself falling behind despite its efforts and as other countries move ahead. Antonakopoulos’s timely appeal came as the private sector prepares for wage negotiations next month. GSEE, the umbrella trade union body, has said it intends to ask for a 5-6 percent rise. It wants to make up for the years of restraint exercised during Greece’s race for eurozone membership. Banking sector union OTOE, in turn, is demanding a 7-percent hike in wages. In comparison, wages for civil servants are due to go up by between 2.5 percent and 3.7 percent. Trade unions’ high wage demands could hurt Greek goods in the European Union market and push up the jobless rate, Schroder Salomon Smith Barney economist Miranda Xafa argued in a recent research note. She said that Greek unit labor costs increased significantly more than the eurozone average in the period 1987-2000, based on competitiveness data compiled by the EU commission. Xafa suggested that a maximum wage increase of 4 percent, including a catch-up clause, would be more sustainable for the economy. Antonakopoulos said self-restraint in connection with social security reforms would be to the benefit of all. He said that Greece could learn from the example of Portugal, which has managed to find a solution to this thorny issue, the key being that «we should all show some limits.»

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