Govt, employers' group row continues

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 15:04

By J. Kanoupakis

A brewing feud between the leftist-rightist coalition government and the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Greece's largest employers' association, continued on Tuesday, a day after the Greek prime minister singled out SEV for criticism, speaking to regional industrialists' group in northern Greece.

At a moment when the country is seeking investments and political consensus, the government is legislating in a manner that discourages would-be investors, SEV president Theodoros Fessas said during an urgently held press briefing. Among others, he cited a recent labor ministry draft bill, set for debate in Parliament the same day, legislation he charged is opposed by employers' groups and unions.

"At the same time, there's an attempt to divide entrepreneurship in the country into 'good' and 'bad'. The markets will not forgive such double-talk, or the reversal of reforms and (political) polarization. A return to normalcy is not served in such a manner," he said.  

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used his address at a Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE)  general assembly on Monday evening to attack what he called SEV's recent attempts to "intervene" in the public debate over scheduled austerity measures in 2019 and 2020.

Tsipras charged, in fact, that SEV - the nationwide association - was providing a "signal", as he said, over the necessity of implementing the agreed-to austerity measures, and regardless of whether his government is meeting memorandum-mandated and post-bailout annual fiscal goals.

"SEV almost always calls for greater anti-social and anti-growth measures (compared to the ones demanded by creditors), in this case, another round of pension cuts," Tsipras said.

 A day later, the relevant government spokesman continued the attack on SEV, speaking at a regular press briefing in Athens, and after Fessas.

"... in our effort to restore labor relations, we have against us Mr. Mitsotakis, who refers to an outdated eight-hour shift, but SEV as well, which through its unacceptable intervention, insists on pension cuts in 2019, as well as the lowering of the tax-free annual income threshold... SEV's wholly political motives are proved by today's statements by the SEV president, who again attacked the government," spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said, including the main opposition leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in his criticism.

The current coalition government has agreed, with creditors, to implement social security cuts as of Jan. 1, 2019, a massive political "hot potato" that it must manage in an election year. Several top ministers and leftist SYRIZA party MPs and cadres have recently hinted at a suspension or even a complete avoidance of the pending austerity measure, whereas top European and Eurozone officials have, at every turn, emphasized the need to implement agreed-to reforms.

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