PPC unmoved by staff protests

Protesting Public Power Corporation (PPC) workers yesterday forced the cancellation for the fourth time of the signing of a strategic cooperation deal between the company and German power giant RWE. The workers, who had staged a rally outside the company’s headquarters in central Athens, occupied the boardroom, forcing PPC President Takis Athanassopoulos to cancel the scheduled meeting and abandon the building. They also announced a four-day strike as of Sunday. The powerful PPC union (GENOP) opposes the deal that provides for the creation of new coal-fired power plants in a joint venture in which RWE will have a 51 percent majority stake and the management. It argues that the deal opens the door to the future privatization of the corporation, and has criticized the fact that the selection of RWE was made without a tender. PPC is 51 percent-owned by the government, which has said it wants to retain control. Athanassopoulos has argued that Greece needs to urgently proceed with plans to boost its power supply in order to meet rapidly growing demand. Greece regularly imports electricity from neighboring countries at a higher cost, and the prospect of blackouts in the peak summer period has grown increasingly predictable in recent years. Moreover, PPC would like to maintain its dominant position in the fully liberalized market in the years to come. Athanassopoulos has warned that without such expansion, PPC will end up a problematic and deficit-ridden enterprise like Olympic Airways. Despite the cancellation of the meeting, the PPC board expressed its determination that both the RWE deal and a lesser agreement for cooperation with Greece’s Halyvourgiki, also opposed by GENOP, will be signed, this time by circulation of the document over the next few days. GENOP President Nikos Fotopoulos reiterated the union’s resolve not to accept a joint venture, arguing that the creation of coal-fired plants will cause problems for the operation of and employment at the existing stations, which are mostly fired by lignite mined by the company itself. GENOP also argues that such ventures with foreign investors will cause the price of electricity to rise sharply. «We are resolved. We are a strong union and know how to fight,» said Fotopoulos. «PPC has to continue supplying cheap electricity and social services to the people. It is just not possible in the face of such universal reaction for management and the government to insist on this deal, which against the interests of the public and the corporation. The government has to think again and reverse its plans,» said the president of umbrella union General Confederation of Greek Labor, Yiannis Panagopoulos.