Hypocrisy abounds in political reaction to social security issue

At noon today, the new president of PASOK is to make his first public appearance in his new post at the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) headquarters. The visit is of particular significance since George Papandreou’s first declaration regarding his electoral platform – about which he has since fallen silent – regarded a four-year initial term of work without social security. Today’s meeting is likely to be marked by a fresh statement on the issue, given that the electoral campaign officially kicks off on Tuesday. But the real importance of the meeting lies elsewhere. The conflict that has arisen over the past few days over New Democracy’s declared position on social security has highlighted the significant role unionists play within PASOK. Unionists It is certain that the unionists’ views following the recent conflict over ND’s platform have received a boost within the party. It is they who have gained the most in recent days, but that applies not only to PASOK. Pressure from GSEE’s general secretary and ND candidate, parliamentary deputy Yiannis Manolis, and the silence maintained by ND’s union wing, DAKE, regarding the party’s economic platform, are what matters for Costas Karamanlis. The ND leader does not underestimate the comparative advantage of the leftist parties in maintaining their close relationship with the unions, despite their many transformations. Surfeit of hypocrisy The other side of the story concerns the social security system itself and the hypocrisy of the past few days. The truth is that the laws passed between 1990 and 1993 had the approval of the most prominent government members of the Simitis period. PASOK not only did not try to abolish these laws but retained their philosophy in all its legislative initiatives. Prominent members of PASOK such as Theodoros Pangalos, Nikos Christodoulakis and Dimitris Reppas have all said, whether publicly or privately, that the Sioufas law «rescued the social security system.» They were not wrong. ND had undertaken the political risk and proposed measures that gave the system a new breath of life, for at least a decade. If it had not done so, the Simitis government would not have been able to make the improvements it did. Naturally it is inconceivable during an election campaign to accord recognition to the importance of political moves by one’s rivals. Yet the importance of these laws cannot be questioned. That is why the Simitis government kept the approach of separating «old» and «new» contributors to the social security system. It is also unjust and hypocritical to criticize ND for a lack of social reflexes and for changing its position because of the clarifications subsequently made by Costas Karamanlis and Giorgos Souflias. In April 2001, when the Ministry for Labor and Social Security made proposals that were even more disadvantageous than those of ND, they were unanimously approved by the PASOK Executive Bureau and Cabinet. It was only when 62 members of Parliament and 11 members of the Central Committee intervened that the measures were revised. Role of the Left Only the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Left Coalition have maintained their basic credibility in the ongoing social security dispute. Their participation in post-electoral developments will be important for the way this issue is