OECD targets labor taboos

The OECD has proposed a series of measures that would have a radical effect on the Greek economy if they were adopted as they would change the current system of collective labor agreements and attack a number of vested interests. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was ready to make public its report the day after the March 7 elections but it remained under wraps for nearly three more weeks. Eight years after local labor agreements were adopted and proclaimed as the most effective way to change collective labor agreements, the OECD says the way to deal with unemployment is to adopt flexible labor contracts. This is a system of personal agreements, widespread in Britain, which get round limitations that exist in national and sectoral agreements. The OECD’s report on the Greek economy in 2003 looks for ways to increase employment through a reduction in the minimum wage, a loosening of protection provided by labor legislation and by scrapping the obstacles to worker mobility and part-time work. Furthermore, it considers necessary a reduction in non-labor costs, such as social security fees and taxes, as well as the high compensation paid out to employees who are let go. The proposals are significant, not only because they indicate a tendency to lower labor costs at a time when the bargaining for a collective labor agreement is under way. It also shows how difficult it will be to bring Greek salaries in line with the EU average. With unemployment still high (at 9.4 percent according to the OECD report) the unions will have to be persuaded that they must express the needs not only of those who have work. The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the biggest labor umbrella organization in the country, has called a nationwide 24-hour strike for Wednesday to press its demands in the talks for a collective labor agreement.