Greek gov’t puts focus on labor reforms, IMF participation

22 November 2016
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The government continued negotiations Monday with representatives of the country’s international creditors with the central aim of securing a palatable agreement on labor reform that will satisfy its defiant rhetoric and the demands of SYRIZA party members.

According to senior government aides, the leftist-led coalition wants to wrap up the second review of the country’s third bailout before December 5, the date of a crucial Eurogroup, in order to kick-start talks on debt relief, which has become something of a holy grail.

However, there is mounting concern within the government that creditors may make further demands which would derail its planning for a deal in time for the Eurogroup.

Apart from the fiscal gap for 2018, Monday’s negotiations focused on labor reform and the possibility of extending collective labor negotiations in order to appease party purists within ruling SYRIZA.

The revival of collective negotiations was one of the party’s major campaign pledges before it swept to power in the elections of January 2015.

Speaking to Skai TV on Monday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that the government’s aim is for the Greek labor market to regain the right to extend collective labor negotiations, as is the case “in all of Europe.”

But, he added, the International Monetary Fund has an entirely different perspective on the matter. The IMF’s stance is reportedly the government’s biggest headache at the moment.

“The main thing we want from the IMF is for it to stop sitting on the fence. In other words to tell us whether it’s in or out of the program. It must decide,” Tzanakpoulos said.

The Fund’s participation will no doubt boost the government’s push for debt relief, but, according to government aides, it has not come to the negotiation with clear positions. The IMF, however, has stated that it will participate in the Greek program on the condition of debt relief and further austerity – a bane to the government struggling to win over an increasingly frustrated electorate.

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