NEWS

Talks with troika hit new snag

Difficult talks between government and troika officials were to continue on Monday after negotiations on Sunday stumbled on the thorny issues of labor laws and civil service staff.

Troika envoys were to meet first with Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis and were expected to insist on reductions to severance pay and of warning time for sackings in the private sector as well as the introduction of a six-day working week. Talks with Administrative Development Minister Antonis Manitakis, who left negotiations in disappointment on Sunday after troika officials reportedly pressed for civil service layoffs, were expected to follow. It remained unclear when fresh talks would be held with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

Meanwhile it remained unclear when Prime Minister Antonis Samaras would meet with his coalition partners, socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis, to sign off a 13.5-billion euros of austerity measures as well as a list of so-called ?prior actions? demanded by the troika, chiefly structural reforms including the liberalization of closed professions promised by Greece over the past two years.

Samaras had stressed, in an interview with Kathimerini on Sunday, that his aim was to finalize the package before Thursday?s EU leaders? summit in Brussels.

Talks between the troika and the ministers of Labor and Finance hit a snag on Sunday evening as the government reportedly refuses to back down on the creditors? demands regarding labor relations.

Skai tekevision reported that the representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund ? known as the troika ? insist on the layoffs of civil servants employed at state corporations that will shut down or merge with others.

The government, on the other hand, counters that those employees should be put in a state of suspension, and have only those who break the civil service code of conduct or are simply inadequate laid off.

The blueprint for negotiations that the troika submitted to the government ministers also includes a retrospective reduction in severance pay, setting 12 monthly salaries as a ceiling. It also provides for the reduction of warning time to no more than three months.

Vroutsis, in an interview with Skai, insisted that the two additional annual salaries received by workers in the private sector would not be cut, that an extension of the working week was ?not negotiable? and that the overhaul of the labor sector sought by the troika was premature.