Unions cautious on reform dialogue

The government extended its hand to GSEE, the country’s largest umbrella union, yesterday as it puts together its controversial labor market reform plan, a scheme union groups have derided as one-sided and hastily composed. Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos called GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos for talks on Monday after being initially turned down for a meeting today as the union chief was out of the country. GSEE appears cautious about the talks, which will also include employer groups, and threatens it will not support them if insufficient time is set aside for dialogue. Among the structural changes the government hopes to push through soon is an extension to the current eight-hour work day for retailers. It also wants to increase employer flexibility by giving them the right to ask employees for three hours of overtime per week. The first signs of protest have come from the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders, which is organizing a demonstration outside Parliament at 2.00 p.m. today. Retail workers, meanwhile, have called a 24-hour strike for today. Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) Chairman Odysseas Kyriakopoulos told Kathimerini yesterday that the reforms are an ideal way for the country to boost its competitiveness and get in line with European standards. «Even if we cannot proceed with two steps, let’s take one step,» he said. Meanwhile at a cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis repeated the government’s determination to proceed with its structural reform plans despite expected protests.

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