National pay pact seems a step closer

Employer and labor unions yesterday appeared to dispel fears of irreconcilable differences over a national pay pact and to be ushering in a dilution of the traditionally unquestioned principle of minimum pay raises for all workers. In resumed negotiations, both sides agreed that a pact had to be signed despite the difficulties. «The national pay pact is an important tool which has played a determining role,» said Federation of Greek Industries President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, while General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos said the unions were «willing to give serious support to solutions at local and industry branch levels where problems exist.» On Monday, GSEE representatives warned of strike action if employers did not withdraw proposals for staggered minimum wage increases by region and sector, depending on the seriousness of the viability problems faced by some industries. Earlier, textile manufacturers’ representatives had said pay raises in their sector should be exempted from a national pact. After yesterday’s meeting, it appeared that the two sides were converging toward a two-year pact that would be accompanied by an agreement on special terms for four prefectures in Macedonia that have been particularly affected by deindustrialization and the flight of local firms to neighboring countries with lower labor costs: Kastoria, Florina, Imathia and Drama. However, Deputy GSEE President Alekos Kalyvis, who represents left-wing affiliated unions, said employers had also proposed a 50 percent reduction in social insurance contributions for workers in some industries and called on the umbrella labor organization to change its stance.

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