OPINION

Consensus

The signing of the two-year collective labor agreement by the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and employers’ organizations yesterday is alone a very positive development for Greece’s economic and social domains. But it is also significant in another respect. The accord sets the conditions for peace on the industrial relations front during the post-Olympic Games period, which is expected to be tense even according to the most optimistic forecasts. A product of tough bargaining, the new accord does not merely reflect the mutual concessions of workers and employers but a broader recognition of certain indisputable characteristics of the national economy and the need to deal with them in a responsible and consensual fashion. It is indicative that the collective agreement foresees greater pay hikes for low-income workers (about 13.4 percent as opposed to 11.5 percent for the rest) – a definitely welcome and necessary increase as minimum wages in Greece border on indignity, putting the brakes on young people’s ambitions of becoming economically independent. Despite envisaging provisions for low-income workers, the contract also ensures that business competitiveness is not undermined – a concern which is reflected in GSEE’s approval of the proposal to pay the second installment of the annual pay rise on September 1 instead of July 1. The move clearly aims to relieve some of the burden which currently weighs on seasonal and tourist businesses. At the same time, the unemployed can expect to benefit from the creation of new jobs in the sector – an area where the State’s economic policy is also expected to play a crucial role. The two-year labor agreement – which is a basis for sectoral agreements – is good news for the government as it will provide a tonic for the administration following the Games in Athens. Furthermore, the contract was a sign of a healthy mentality as it confirmed that Greece’s employees’ and employers’ unions have adopted a serious and responsible stance on the issue. They are in for some tough bargaining but they are also keeping in mind the limits set by objective circumstances and the common good. GSEE in particular refrained from making excessive demands and the fact that it said «yes» this time will give a «no» in the future added significance. Yesterday’s agreement underscored willingness on both sides to cooperate. At the same time, it showed the government and the politicians that they must seize the opportunity to hammer out an economic policy that will reap the benefits of peace on the labor relations front and distribute these benefits in a manner that will empower the lower-income groups whose economic woes are also mentioned in the text.