National pay pact talks again prove fruitless

Employers and unions yesterday failed for a second time to make progress in negotiations over a national pay pact for 2008, while unions said they would press forward with strike action against the government’s social security reform proposals. The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) has proposed a deal of at least two years, with 4 percent pay raises for the first year. SEV also called for dialogue on issues such as exempting from any deal specific categories of new entrants to the labor market and firms and sectors facing decline. For its part, the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) rejected the proposal as a basis for negotiation. GSEE called for a one-year pact, with increases of 10.5 percent, and disagreed with employers on the projected rate of inflation, but left the duration of the contract, linking it with the size of the pay raises. General Confederation of Greek Labor President Yiannis Panagopoulos said the employers’ proposals had been disappointing and the negotiation «particularly difficult,» in the midst of a «malodorous» political climate. Other GSEE officials said a two-year agreement would have to carry clauses for inflation and productivity. SEV President Dimitris Daskalo-poulos said the negotiations were taking place under difficult economic and social conditions. A date for a new meeting was not set but talks are expected to resume after the general strike, which union officials said will create a new situation. Separately, Employment and Social Security Minister Fani Palli-Petralia met with representatives of social security funds for a discussion of proposed reforms. «We expressed our discontent, because there was no dialogue… We will stick to our positions, which are opposed to the government’s rationale,» said in a statement by the unions which represented journalists, doctors and pharmacists. Labor unions object to plans to merge hundreds of pension funds into a handful, saying the proposed reforms will only mean smaller pensions, greater contributions and the effective raising of retirement ages. Palli-Petralia said the government was determined to continue with reforms, despite the fact that its plan has met with stiff union opposition and repeated strikes. «The pension reform plan, which is in progress, aims to protect current pensioners’ benefits and secure the same for future seniors,» the recently appointed labor minister said. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will unveil concrete pension reforms on February 15 in Parliament. (Kathimerini, Reuters)