Labor relations prove vital

As the government embarks on a period when its labor relations will be severely tested, a poll conducted on behalf of Sunday’s Kathimerini indicates New Democracy leaders, as well as unionists, must do more to solve their problems. The survey, conducted by VPRC, found that although 57 percent of respondents did not know why sailors went on an eight-day strike, which ended on Thursday, 62 percent of people questioned said that the seamen were «probably right» to protest. The work stoppage left many islands short of essential supplies and also hit farmers but 49 percent of those polled said they approved of the sailors’ decision to strike. Having failed to find common ground with the picketing sailors, who wanted improved benefits, the government decided last week to force them back to work by calling on a law which effectively drafts striking workers into the army and forces them to follow orders. The decision to use civil mobilization to end the strike was derided by the opposition but also seems to have met with the disapproval of the public. The poll suggests that 47 percent of Greeks disagreed with the tactic, compared to 38 percent who agreed with it. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made it clear on Friday that he did not intend to give in to union pressure as he seeks to continue economic and labor reforms. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told Sunday’s Kathimerini that he was confident the public supported the reforms but called for business owners to do more to protect their workers. Yesterday’s poll, however, suggests that many voters believe that the onus is on the Karamanlis administration to smooth things over with the unionists. Almost half of the 604 people questioned said they thought the government was responsible for the problems that were caused by the strike. Significantly, though, 55 percent said that the sailors should not strike again. Meanwhile, a poll by Alco on behalf of Sunday’s Ethnos newspaper suggested that PASOK had moved ahead of New Democracy, albeit by 0.4 percent. Although 34.4 percent of those questioned said they would vote for the Socialists, 49 percent of respondents said the conservatives would win the next general election.

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