The government distanced itself yesterday from comments made by the head of the country’s largest chamber of commerce, EBEA, recommending that businesses reduce the number of days worked by employees as a means of avoiding job cuts. Employee groups and opposition political parties opposed Wednesday’s proposal put forth by Constantinos Michalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA), suggesting that it would be «better to move ahead with more flexible hours than sack staff.» «Under no circumstances do Mr Michalos’s views reflect government policy,» said Employment and Social Security Minister Fani Palli-Petralia after a Cabinet meeting. «Policies are outlined and decided upon by the government and, in this case, the Employment and Social Security Ministry.» Palli-Petralia also denied knowledge of five large companies having already introduced cuts to the workweek, as stated by Michalos. Union groups have accused the EBEA president of opening the debate for more flexible work-hours on behalf of the conservative government. The global economic slowdown is seen as increasing Greece’s unemployment rate next year to 8 percent from 7.5 percent in 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Labor market rigidities have been blamed for keeping Greece’s jobless numbers high despite years of strong economic growth.