Brussels and creditors press for reforms on social security and labour matters

16 November 2016
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Brussels are intensifying pressure on the Greek government for immediate reforms on labour-related issues. The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marriane Thyssen, underlined the need for changes in the Greek labour market, including the determination of minimum wages and social benefits policies within the framework of the second review of the Greek bailout program by the creditors. “The old system is not viable. You cannot have a social security system without adequate contributions and give out pensions after 35 years of employment when life expectancy has been risen”, she said. The Commissioner acknowledged that the reforms would be tough on the Greek people, but aded that society was undergoing a transitional phase on labour matters in all EU member-states. Meanwhile, the creditors commenced the first round of contact with the Greek delegations in an effort to close the second review, Tuesday.

The new Greek Labour Minister, Efi Achtzoglou presented her plans to the institutions, with the reintroduction of free collective bargaining taking top priority on her agenda. The lenders, however, are persisting for the adoption of employment bargaining with flexible wages. During the first meeting with the competent task force assigned with examining labour-ralated matters, the new Labour Minister strongly opposed any changes in the mass layoff level, arguing that the current Greek legal framework was completely in line with the EU provisions. Achzoglou will push for a proposal permitting reduced work hours in the event a business is facing dire economic conditions, under the provision the state supports the unemployed worker during his jobless period. The Greek side also objects to the demand for a lockout, which had been included on the agenda of talks in the past, something the Greek Ministry believes will resurface. The two sides are also in disagreement on the matter of the minimum wage level, an issue the creditors and domestic employees and business see to eye on, as they want no changes to take place until 2018. A new meeting is scheduled for Wednesday between the two sides.

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