NEWS

Back to the drawing board

On his first day in his new job, Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas told union leaders yesterday that discussions aimed at reforming the country’s ailing social security system would start from scratch without being bound by prior studies and proposals. Reppas, who was the government’s spokesman until Tuesday’s Cabinet reshuffle, chose to begin his term at the Labor Ministry by mending fences with the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the largest labor umbrella in the country, in a visit to GSEE headquarters yesterday. He was accompanied by his deputy ministers, Rovertos Spyropoulos and Lefteris Tziollas. Both Reppas and National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who also met with the GSEE leadership, assured unionists of the leading role that they will play in the talks aimed at reforming the social security system. Reppas promised that the speed of talks and the procedures of the dialogue will be agreed on in discussions with GSEE. He said talks will take place on a clean slate without being committed to the studies and findings of the past. The government was shaken earlier this year and went into months of paralysis after social security reforms that it proposed in March were condemned by labor, opposition parties and members of the ruling PASOK party as resulting in more years of work for lower pensions. The government withdrew its proposals but this did not prevent mass demonstrations and a drop in the polls. Tired of the dissent within PASOK, Prime Minister Costas Simitis called a party congress six months ahead of schedule where, on October 14, he renewed his mandate as party leader and reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday. The government now seems keen to avoid any further turmoil with labor. The initiative of the two ministers to hasten to meet with the GSEE leadership was described by the confederation’s president, Christos Polyzogopoulos, as political behavior which looks for solutions through cooperation. National Economy Minister Christodoulakis committed himself to solving immediately the problem raised by the State’s delay in contributing 1.3 trillion drachmas in fees to the Social Security Foundation. These will be paid in the form of 15-year bonds. Christodoulakis also suggested regular monthly meetings with GSEE. Itemized breakdown in March