GSEE responds to Bank of Greece report

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In April 2000, the Bank of Greece issued its 1999 annual report, which continued to stress the importance of unit labour costs and labour market developments in improving competitiveness and reducing unemployment. The GSEE trade union confederation responded by calling for increased workers' incomes and pensions and opposing further labour market flexibility measures.

On 25 April 2000, the governor of the Bank of Greece, Loukas Papadimos, issued the central bank's 1999 annual report. The report did not depart from the framework of ideas prevalent during the past 10 years, according to which unit labour costs and developments in the labour market constitute preconditions for competitiveness and reduction of unemployment. Following the presentation of the report, the President of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), Christos Polizogopoulos, commented on those parts of the report that refer to workers' income, social insurance and labour relations. He expressed the view that collective agreements should not be inspired by restrictive incomes policy but rather should boost workers' incomes, not only by offsetting higher inflation but also by offering workers a share in increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

On the subject of the labour market, Mr Polizogopoulos emphasised that there should be no interventions to increase flexibility. As reports by the GSEE's Institute of Labour (INE) have repeatedly stressed, the labour market in Greece is characterised by traditional and wide-ranging flexibility. Such flexibility is of all types: when not formally fixed in law, flexibility is informal and established in manufacturing, services and the agricultural sector without distinction. To the fact that regulation of the labour market in most other EU countries is clearly more extensive than in Greece should be added the fact that the state mechanism which controls implementation of labour legislation in Greece is so inadequate and ineffective that its operation even cancels out to a great extent the validity this existing legislation, said the GSEE president. For these reasons, it is the position of the GSEE, and of the INE/GSEE in particular, that the Greek economy is in need of structural changes, not in terms of labour relations but of the system of production, in order to increase investment and boost employment. In his speech, the GSEE president called for endeavours to achieve full, stable employment, while keeping part-time work at the level of 15% of the labour force.

On social insurance issues, he stated that it must be made clear from the outset, before the start of the impending social dialogue on the issue, that there will be no increase in retirement ages or reduction in pensions. On the contrary, the GSEE president added, pensions should be increased, because they are significantly below the EU average. He also stressed that there must be agreement to preserve tripartite funding of the social insurance system.

In conclusion, Mr Polizogopoulos stressed that GSEE and the trade union movement will oppose in every feasible way any policies which are contrary to these objectives, so as to safeguard and broaden their gains in incomes, social insurance and other areas.

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