Appeal to labor unions

After issuing a second appeal to union leaders for them to return to the negotiating table over labor reforms, the government yesterday indicated that it was willing to wait a bit longer before submitting its bill, in hopes of reaching an agreement and staving off more strikes. Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos met with the leadership of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the country’s largest umbrella union, on Monday but talks appeared to have hit a brick wall. «I repeat my invitation to GSEE to sit at the negotiating table at this conclusive and crucial stage,» said Panayiotopoulos, «Is it possible for the GSEE leadership not to have thought through answers to the questions we have posed?» The government wants to introduce more flexible working hours and cheaper overtime as part of a drive to make Greece more competitive. «We emphasize that the current regime on overtime has to change. It holds small and medium-sized businesses back,» said Panayiotopoulos However, unions say they have not been consulted sufficiently and that the reforms will open a back door to the further erosion of workers’ rights and the loss of the traditional eight-hour working day. The president of GSEE, Christos Polyzogopoulos, warned the government yesterday not to proceed without the consent of unions unless it wanted to face a summer of «intense dispute.» The government had been intending to submit its labor reform bill to Parliament this week, but Panayiotopoulos said only that it would make its «next moves» known within the coming days. Polyzogopoulos argued that the process could not move forward until his union had reached agreement with unions representing business owners. He has lined up a meeting with the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE) and the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) for Tuesday. Meanwhile, Polyzogopoulos revealed that a poll carried out on behalf of GSEE indicated that some 54 percent of workers wanted the union to reject out of hand any ideas of making working hours more flexible. Under a third approved any kind of dialogue at all.

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