Call for reform debate rebuffed

Greece’s largest umbrella union yesterday rejected the government’s call for a long-term dialogue on social security reform, underscoring the recent worsening of labor relations. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis yesterday called on other political parties and employer and employee representatives to open a dialogue «with no preconditions and no hidden agendas.» The two ministers proposed a 15-member committee, to include representatives from all sides concerned, as the most appropriate forum to conduct the dialogue, which, they said, would last two years. The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), which represents employees in the private sector and public utilities, rejected the invitation, saying the government should first rescind the forced mobilization of striking seamen and force banks to negotiate a collective wage agreement with the bank employees’ umbrella union OTOE. Alogoskoufis said that no one is entitled to deny participating in the dialogue because the viability of the social security system has been recognized by everyone as one of the major problems facing the country. The two ministers made it clear that it will not be up to the present government to implement the reform. The committee that they hope to set up will only come up with a report on the current state of social security and estimates as to its future prospects. «Reaching a consensus will take time beyond the government’s (current) four-year term,» Alogoskoufis said.