SEV’s radical plan

The national collective bargaining process that determines pay levels in the private sector will be a thing of the past if a proposal made yesterday by Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, chairman and executive president of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), is implemented. During Monday’s meeting with union representatives opening the bargaining round on next year’s wage levels, Kyriakopoulos had already proposed the abolition of a national agreement in favor of regional and sectoral ones. Yesterday, Kyriakopoulos declared himself against the notion of collective wage agreements and in favor of what he called «innovative new models» more in tune with the needs of the times. Kyriakopoulos’s proposals include a freezing of wages for new employees, as well as a freeze on the minimum wage in regions (such as Western Macedonia) and sectors (such as textiles) suffering from high unemployment. He warned the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) that «in case the other side insists on the current model, wage rises will be very, very small,» adding that should his proposal be accepted «employers will be quite generous.» In each case, he said, a long, hard bargaining round awaited employers and employees: He dismissed GSEE’s timetable for ending the talks by late February as impractical. Aware that his proposal is bound to provoke an immediate negative reaction from unions, Kyriakopoulos said that he was merely contributing «ideas and concerns» to the debate. He also tried to paint himself as the champion of the unemployed whose fate is systematically neglected by the unions. «One major group was missing in Monday’s start of (wage) negotiations: the unemployed.» Referring to recent National Statistics Service data confirming the persistently higher unemployment rates among women and the young, Kyriakopoulos said that the present wage-bargaining process «raises additional obstacles to these people. We cannot ignore this factor in our negotiations which will determine the shape of the labor market in 2006,» he said. Kyriakopoulos proposed a lower minimum wage for new entrants to the job market, specifically those aged below 30 and those employed in regions with high jobless rates and sectors facing a crisis. He implied that such a measure would help stem the flight of Greek industries to neighboring Balkan countries with lower labor costs. «The era of one size fits all is over. We must examine each case separately,» he said.