OSE: One in three off the trains

One in every three employees at the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) will have to leave the company, one way or another, by early 2011, according to demands made by the organizations that have bailed Greece out. Sources suggest that Brussels has already informed Athens that the organization will need to cut salary costs with staff redundancies and by reducing overtime work. Should no solution be found, sources claim that Brussels has even spoken of layoffs in order to reduce workers, although Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas stressed yesterday he would not accept layoffs at OSE and ministry sources made it clear that the organization’s chief would not stay in his post if he were to witness OSE employees being laid off. At present, the total number of employees at OSE comes to about 6,000, against 7,000 in 2008, as this year there has been a major wave of retirement, as is true for most of the Greek public sector. From now on some 300-500 are expected to retire each year. Yet this is far too low a figure to contain salary costs at a satisfactory level. Alternative solutions the ministry has been planning include transfers to other departments in the public sector and obligatory retirement for those who are eligible do so. Speaking yesterday, Reppas warned employees that although he would not tolerate any layoffs, they should be aware that they are bound to lose something in the process. «People who have been working at an organization for several decades and have reached the age of 50 to 55 years cannot possibly be dismissed. On the other hand, we must make some brave decisions regarding OSE employees and they, too, must realize they will lose something,» the minister said. It is also likely that there will be employee transfers within OSE, from overstaffed posts to areas that need more personnel. This is deemed essential in order to reduce overtime work, which costs the organization hundreds of millions of euros every year. The bill for streamlining OSE provides for the write-off of all the organization’s debts to the state as well as those of operating arm TrainOSE to OSE and the National Administration of Railway Infrastructure, but it is particularly important that the state take responsibility for all debts OSE owed to third parties, and which amount to a few billion euros. OSE will try to change the imbalance of revenues to expenses, which currently stands at the untenable ratio of 1:8, by cutting loss-making routes, abolishing reduced fares and all categories of free tickets, according to the bill that is due to be tabled shortly in Parliament. In fact, most of the network is considered loss-making, with the exception of the main route linking Athens with Thessaloniki.

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