ND forced to switch MPs

The government was forced into some last-minute tactical maneuvering yesterday to ensure that its amendment to the law on public enterprises passes through Parliament as it came under fire from PASOK, which called the reform «unconstitutional.» In a rare move, New Democracy withdrew one of its MPs from the reduced-capacity parliamentary summer session and temporarily replaced him with another. Outspoken Argolida deputy Yiannis Manolis had stated his intention not to vote in favor of his party’s proposed amendment, which would effectively end collective wage contracts at public utilities and other state-owned firms. Manolis was pulled out of the parliamentary session, the second of three this summer, and replaced by Ileia MP Giorgos Kontoyiannis. During the summer, instead of 300 MPs sitting in the House, 100 deputies take part in each of the three month-long sessions. Sources said that the government was aware it would be criticized for the move but preferred this to dissent within the party hitting the headlines. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros publicly defended Manolis’s replacement. «Changing members in summer sessions is a customary practice, which usually happens with the full knowledge of those being replaced, so there is nothing peculiar here,» he told journalists. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told reporters that the amendment would not end collective bargaining but would allow the employer, in other words the state, greater leeway in negotiations. His explanations are unlikely to convince unionists, including New Democracy’s own representatives, and the government is expected to reap more criticism this fall. PASOK hit out at the proposed measure, with MP Evangelos Venizelos describing it as «unconstitutional» because it undermines labor laws. PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou said that ND’s decision to withdraw Manolis from the debate «proves that it knows this amendment cannot pass through Parliament» and called the decision «highly political.» However, the switching of conservative MPs is due to lead to the amendment being approved by the House as early as today.