Labor reform talks reach a dead end

Talks between Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos and unions over labor reforms reached the end of the line yesterday, with union bosses threatening to derail the process and the government signaling its intent to go ahead and submit the relevant bill to Parliament this week. Panayiotopoulos met with the leadership of the General Confederation of Greek Labor, GSEE, the country’s largest umbrella union, yesterday to hammer out an agreement over proposals to change labor regulations to allow for cheaper overtime and give bosses the right to introduce more flexible work hours for their employees. However, a meeting that began in an atmosphere of mistrust appeared to end with irreconcilable differences between the two sides. «Today’s meeting can only develop into a dialogue if the government takes on its responsibilities,» said Christos Polyzogopoulos, the head of GSEE. He accused the government of having a predetermined agenda for the talks and of focusing solely on employers’ issues. Polyzogopoulos warned that if the government imposed the reforms on workers, GSEE would actively oppose the measures. A further problem for the ruling conservatives in their effort to achieve a careful balancing act, might be that the New Democracy unionists (DAKE) appear to support Polyzogopoulos’s stance. The GSEE leader said that he would contact employers straight away to reach a separate agreement on overtime. GSEE leaders are due to meet with the heads of the civil servants’ union ADEDY today to discuss their next moves. Polyzogopoulos threatened nationwide strikes if the eight-hour work day is tampered with during efforts to make workers’ hours more flexible. Panayiotopoulos denied any such intention but said the government had been in discussions over labor reforms since February and could not continue them indefinitely. Sources indicate that the labor reform bill is to be submitted to Parliament by the end of the week. He argued that the reforms would make labor more affordable and therefore businesses more competitive, but would also put an end to unpaid overtime and unregistered labor.

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