Post-Olympics job plan

Fearing a sudden increase in unemployment after construction work on Olympic-related projects is completed, the Inner Cabinet yesterday discussed ideas for coping with this likelihood, and plans to announce specific measures in the fall. Estimates on the number of workers on Olympic projects vary wildly. Construction firms put the figure at 5-7,000, the National Technical University of Athens at 20,000 (16,000 foreigners and 4,000 Greeks), while the General Confederation of Greek Labor says the total exceeds 35,000. The Labor Ministry believes 10,000 will face problems after the Games. «Our first concern is to move immediately toward the pre-emptive management of employment problems faced by those working on Olympic projects,» Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said after the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. «In this framework, we are proceeding initially to establish their number in as systematic a way as possible.» The Labor Ministry is thinking of a combination of initiatives, some of them a continuation of the previous government’s plans and others based on new ideas. At the center of the government’s planning is the use of funds from the EU’s Third Community Support Framework; a quicker undertaking of public works projects, especially in the provinces, and cooperation with large construction firms for them to absorb workers who will have undergone further vocational training. This cooperation constitutes the first great challenge for the government on the issue as it will have to ensure that everything is done fairly and with transparency. Furthermore, measures are being planned to allow small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed professionals to hire employees. The second challenge presented by post-Olympics unemployment concerns the government’s ability to activate mechanisms such as the Manpower Organization (OAED), which continues to function in a murky way. A difficulty that the government will have to face arises from the fact that it will take cooperation by a number of ministries – especially those of Economy and Public Works – to get new major construction projects moving. «Through training and more training, we will succeed in getting this labor dynamic back in the work force, while increasing incentives for their moving to other areas,» Panayiotopoulos said.