Unbending unions

Developments yesterday within the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) will most probably result in fresh turmoil over the controversial issue of social security. A disparate alliance of unionists affiliated with New Democracy, the Communist Party and the Left Coalition, together with a pro-PASOK member of the union council rejected – by a slim majority – the government’s proposals and is anticipating a new round of strikes in cooperation with the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY). This means it is very unlikely that the government bill will be passed, given the upcoming local elections, and that it will instead be put off for the indefinite future. The government bears huge responsibility for the above developments. Following the dismal failure of the initial «shock therapy» under pressure from an unexpectedly dynamic wave of strikes, the government has applied a more «moderate treatment,» confining itself to milder reforms. This decision could be justified on the grounds of political pragmatism. What is completely without reason, however, is that the government has come up with an «emergency bill» to rescue social security without having first conducted a scientific study on the system’s financial viability. This omission confirms that the government is at pains to minimize the political cost in view of the local elections, instead of effectively tackling this social time bomb. At the same time, the government hopes to placate the market and our EU partners by nourishing the delusion that substantial reforms are on the way. Unfortunately, a large section of the opposition has adopted a similarly opportunistic tactic. Hence, in its attempt to undermine the government, it is fueling the blind intransigence of the unions. And if workerism – in its bad form – is something to be expected from the left, the same is not true of New Democracy’s union members. Conservative leaders know, of course, that once one has indulged in populist tactics, it is hard to escape unscathed. But the short-sighted tactic that some ND unionists have adopted today will backfire if the party comes to power. Given that PASOK was confronted by the unions – which are, theoretically speaking, under Socialist control – what will happen when ND is called upon to implement the radical reforms which are mandated by market liberalism and economic necessity?

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