Skip to main content

Govt eyes common front with social partners ahead of labor reform negotiations

By S. Papapetros & Y. Kanoupakis

The leftist Greek government is apparently trying to muster internal support from so-called “social partners” – unions, employers’ groups, sector representatives – and establish a “national front” in the face of pending negotiations over creditors’ standing demands for reforms in the country’s labor sector.

Creditors, especially the IMF, have signaled their intent to press demands for labor market reforms, including a downward recalculation of the monthly minimum wage and liberalization of the framework for hiring and firing.

Relevant Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos met on Tuesday evening with representatives of social partners, including the biggest trade union umbrella group, GSEE, and representatives of the major employers’ federation, SEV.

The goal, as enunciated by Katrougalos, is for the country “to return to a social Europe after the end of negotiations”. He also said a joint text is pending, signed by the government and social partners. The set of positions will be presented to opposition parties in order to gain their support, he said – a move seen as trying to allay opposition criticism and force rivals to line up behind the government.

Katrougalos, an attorney who represented unions and public sector contract workers before entering politics, again said there was no issue of wage cuts or reduced labor rights being agreed to by the current government.

In a bid to outline a positive prospect, the minister said the goal is to return to collective bargaining agreements in the country, given that the framework has all but been abandoned since the economic crisis swamped the country since 2010.

Labor reforms are expected to dominate negotiations for a second review of the Greek program (third bailout) in the autumn.