Unions warned to climb on board

Amid efforts to engage in structural and social security reforms, the prime minister warned unions yesterday that he was determined to push through changes, even if he did not have their support. «We want to make changes with the consent of workers and unions but wherever this consent cannot be achieved, we have to progress with… realism, boldness and determination,» said PM Costas Karamanlis after meeting with a panel of public administration experts. «We cannot go on burdening future generations of Greeks,» he added. The government has only made tentative efforts at social security reforms so far but Karamanlis has indicated he is determined to streamline the public sector and reduce the burden on state coffers. The premier cited an agreement struck this week to offer thousands of OTE Telecom workers an early retirement deal, in return for putting an end to jobs for life for future company employees, as a good indication of what could be achieved when unions cooperated with the government. However, another problem was brewing after workers at Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) refinery, 35 percent of which is owned by the state, decided to go on a 10-day strike as of June 10 after a breakdown in collective bargaining talks with the firm’s management. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas accused the government’s opponents of «playing political games» to exacerbate the crisis and said he was hopeful a solution could be found.

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