Restructuring our public corporations

The labor management agreement for a record voluntary retirement program at OTE signals a very important development for the the Greek Telecommunications Organization and state companies in general. The move has marked a change in mentality, as consensus between workers and managers paved the way for a deal that will reduce labor costs at the huge organization. Without a doubt, the settlement was an act of responsibility both on the part of the unionists and the board of a corporation that has been having trouble transcending civil service mentality at a time of rapid technological change and many shifting market needs. Even if some of the 6,000 OTE employees choose to opt out of the voluntary retirement scheme, the program can still mark the beginning of a campaign to restructure the once-powerful monopoly. Furthermore, it sets an example for the country’s other public corporations, most of which are known to have surplus staff while lacking the necessary experts. It goes without saying that there can be no in-depth reform of these companies without shaking up their existing personnel. Besides, it is an open secret that recruitment and career prospects have for many decades been determined by political criteria. Being appointed to a state sector job was usually some reward for an individual’s contribution to the party – a practice that is at odds with maximizing share value, the assumed objective of any registered firm. To be sure, trimming the staff at public corporations through the use of voluntary retirement schemes will inevitably aggravate a burning social issue, as the premature retirement of thousands of employees will put renewed emphasis on the question of social security reform. The much-needed restructuring of public corporations must not be allowed to take place at the cost of a social security system that is already strained by the huge fiscal deficit and consecutive governments’ chronic reluctance to take remedial action.

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