Labor unions, employers to discuss wages next week

Business owners and labor unions have agreed to meet on Wednesday next week to discuss amendments to the current national collective labor contract that could include wage freezes or reductions.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has asked the two sides to take steps to make Greece more competitive but both are reluctant to agree a reduction to the minimum wage and the scrapping of one of the 14 monthly salaries that most private sector workers receive.

Speaking in Parliament on Friday, Papademos refused to take a position on what changes need to be made but suggested that lower wage costs might help tackle Greece’s unemployment rate, which has reached 18.2 percent.

“Unemployed people do not have a minumum wage or a 13th or 14th monthly salary and we have to think about them,» he said.

Papademos went on to say that steps should be taken to ensure that businesses remain open. «It is better to have businesses that are open but paying lower wages with the agreement of both parties than to have closed businesses and more unemoployment.”

The head of the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE) Dimitris Asimakopoulos told Skai radio on Friday that he would propose a wage two-year wage freeze and a 10 percent reduction in social security contributions.

There have been suggestions that if the unions and employers are unable to reach and agreement, the government will step in an change labor legislation without their approval.

However, Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis appeared to dismiss this option on Friday.

?Taking legislative action to regulate labor and salary issues is not a solution,? he told Mega TV.

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