PASOK, ND slug it out

The ruling PASOK and conservative New Democracy parties clashed yesterday over a suggestion by PASOK General Secretary Michalis Chrysochoidis that the government might consider labor’s persistent demand for a 35-hour work week. With elections set for March 7, every such suggestion or action by the government sets off a storm of protests from opposition parties. ND leader Costas Karamanlis met with President Costis Stephanopoulos yesterday and afterward called for the election campaign to be waged according to fair principles. He listed four as: the State’s absolute impartiality, noting that seven new bills «promoting favoritism» were presented to Parliament on Wednesday; the Constitution must be adhered to, with all parties and opinions being given fair coverage; leaders of all parties represented in Parliament or the European Parliament should take part in at least one debate while Karamanlis and George Papandreou, who is to be elected PASOK leader next month, should hold at least three; and the campaign should not produce noise pollution or visual ugliness. The government is expected to call for an extension of the current Parliament to February 13 in order to pass legislation on a number of important issues, including pensions, development, public works awards, equality of all before the law, the codifying of the capital market law, and others, for a total of some 15 new bills. PASOK’s general secretary met yesterday with the leadership of the country’s largest labor group, the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), in light of the talks on a collective labor agreement that are to begin on Monday. GSEE is pressing for a pay hike of 8 percent and a 35-hour work week. «We have been of the opinion for years that work hours have to be reduced gradually. I think we must start a great debate on this between the government, parties, unions and business groups,» Chrysochoidis said. ND spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos accused PASOK of «suspicious populism» and of «trying once again to promise everything to everyone.» ND honorary chairman and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis proclaimed in Parliament, «My hair stands on end when I hear such things… The 35-hour week will blow the economy sky high.» The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) warned that such a setup would increase costs for small and medium-sized enterprises by 30 percent and could put 300,000 of them out of business.

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