GSEE calls for measures to respond to oil price increases
With oil price rises triggering increased inflation in autumn 2000, Greek trade unions are concerned about the effects on the incomes of workers and pensioners. In September, the GSEE union confederation called on the government to take immediate measures to address the situation and posed the question of renegotiating the pay terms of the National General Collective Labour Agreement and lower-level collective agreements, if this becomes necessary.
On 20 September 2000, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) sent a letter to the Ministers of Finance, Development, and Labour and Social Security expressing deep concern about the situation provoked by the current continuous rise in oil prices and the consequences on the prices of other products and on inflation as well as on workers' income, as guaranteed by the National General Collective Labour Agreement (EGSSE) (GR0006175N) and sectoral collective agreements. In this perspective, GSEE calls for measures to be taken immediately and poses the question of renegotiating the EGSSE and other collective agreements, if this becomes necessary.
The rise in oil prices in conjunction with the dollar's appreciation has, says GSEE, ignited a non-proportional upturn in the prices of basic goods, thus "gnawing" at the income of employees and pensioners. Chain reactions are considered certain for a wide range of goods and services, even if the duration and intensity of the oil crisis are not enough to lead to a general destabilisation of the European Union economies.
GSEE claims that Greek business –said to be "addicted" until recently to high rates of inflation - have reacted spasmodically to the crisis, either intimidated by the replacement cost or "profiteering" at the expense of the consumers and especially people on low incomes. For GSEE, should the government want to be consistent with the Prime Minister's proclamations concerning the family budget of low-paid employees and pensioner, it must take immediate measures, so as to enable the latter to face the current wave of price increases, which constitutes a special incident and directly affects their income.
These measures should firstly aim by all means to restrain current and subsequent high prices. However, given its limited ability to intervene in prices, the government should primarily redefine promptly the current incomes policy, taking the new situation into consideration. In parallel, a safety net should be developed to protect and support low-income employees and pensioners, both: enlarging tax relief for the employees - instead of tax relief for businesses, which is seen as being of dubious effectiveness; and deploying sufficient resources from the national budget in order to counterbalance the income losses due to high prices.
GSEE - which says that it is motivated, as always, by a strong sense of responsibility - expresses the anxiety of employees, unemployed people and pensioners over the current price rises and warns that mobilisations will take place, if prompt and effective measures for dealing the crisis are not taken, in the direction it proposes.
GSEE is also concerned that the EGSSE for 2000 and 2001, and other lower-level collective agreements, may need to be re-examined given the unexpected change in conditions. Such a review may become necessary if the agreed real rise in salaries and wages - based on the official government predictions of the time about the development of inflation and the other economic indices - is not secured.
Finally, GSEE states that it is certain that the Greek economy has deep foundations enabling it to cope with the present external strains, and also has sufficient leeway to relieve the burdensome consequences of the crisis for employees, unemployed people and pensioners, who are most affected.