PM treads softly with unions

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis got down to post-Olympics business yesterday and met with the heads of the two largest unions in the country – the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the civil servants’ federation ADEDY. In the separate talks, which were held in preparation of Karamanlis’s major economic policy address in Thessaloniki next week, the prime minister assured the unionists that the government would introduce neither new social welfare legislation nor economic austerity measures. He assured GSEE, which covers employees in the private sector, utilities and the broader public sector, that the government would only play a coordinating role in the dialogue on work hours being conducted between GSEE and employers’ organizations. Karamanlis also assured the unionists that his government would not use shock therapy in dealing with conditions that are expected to arise from the full accounting of the country’s fiscal situation. He also said that the budget would take into consideration the need to further fund the Social Security Foundation (IKA), the country’s biggest fund. The climate in the meetings was mostly consensual, but ADEDY’s president, Spyros Papaspyros, noted that Greek civil servants’ salaries were 25 percent lower than the EU average. He said ADEDY was ready for «dialogue and negotiations but also for action if necessary.» Meanwhile, less consensual was PASOK leader George Papandreou, who charged in a press conference that the New Democracy government was «scandalmongering» and that his party would not tolerate this. He also warned restive officials in his own party that «no one has a permanent position.» PASOK will hold its congress on Jan. 20-23.

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