Greek Telecom Pensions Crisis

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Greek Telecom’s OME-OTE trade union leadership succeeded last weekend in pushing through the union’s congress a most reactionary agreement which had been worked out in secret talks with management and government ministers.

The deal allows Greek Telecom to offer “early retirement” bonus with government funds to some 6,000 employees of the total 16,200.

The deal states that from now new recruits to the company will be on ‘provisional’ seven-months contracts with just 75 per cent of the minimum Greek Telecom wage with acceptance of ‘flexible’ working hours and conditions.

On the day that the agreement was signed, the Athens Stock Exchange climbed by almost 2.5 per cent.

But the euphoric announcement of the agreement by the Greek Telecom’s management and the OME-OTE union, produced a strong angry reaction from Greek workers who rightly see that it opens the gate for the imposition of ‘flexible’ working and massively reduced wages and pensions for the whole of the working class.

At the OME-OTE congress the entire union leadership, consisting of reformist and right-wingers, stated that those Greek Telecom workers who will accept ‘early retirement’ will get high pensions plus a bonus of some 10,000 Euros on average.

This resulted in a 75 per cent vote to accept the deal producing a chaotic situation with delegates opposed to the deal walking out accusing the union’s leadership of dirty connivance with management and the right-wing government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis.

They called for a new leadership and accused the GSEE (Greek Trade Union Council) President Christos Polyzogopoulos, as being part of the conspiracy and the opposition leader Yiorghos Papandreou, President of the social-democrats PASOK party, of silently accepting the deal.

The issue has created a huge crisis within the GSEE and PASOK, with calls for the expulsion of the OME-OTE trade union leaders.

The Greek Communist Party’s trade union organisation PAME is calling a special conference this weekend to discuss the issue, as will do a number of other trade union bodies.

Following the OME-OTE vote the Greek government immediately stated that a similar agreement must be signed by the bank employees union OTOE.

In an extraordinary meeting last Sunday, the union decided a 48-hour national strike next Monday and Tuesday against the bankers’ and government’s plans.

The union’s President Stavros Koukos, a PASOK supporter, stated that the union will call an indefinite strike if the Minister for Economy Yiorghos Alogoskoufis tables a Government Bill at the Vouli (Greek parliament) imposing new terms on bank employees.

The post office union POST President F Thomas has stated that the government are preparing legislation which will include the post office and railways.

Greek workers’ opposition to the Karamanlis government plans has forced both the GSEE President Polyzogopoulos and PASOK President Papandreou to try and diffuse the situation by attacking the OME-OTE trade union leadership and claiming that they were opposed to ‘early retirement’ deals and bonuses which will be paid by ‘the whole of the Greek people’.

Both said that the deal was ‘shameful’ but made it clear that they were in favour of introducing ‘reforms’ in working conditions but only following ‘dialogue’.

There is no doubt that the treachery of the OME-OTE trade union leaders was carried out in connivance with the Greek Telecom management and the Greek government with the full support of the GSEE leaders and the PASOK President Papandreou.

The blatancy of the deal and its deep anti-working class character understood by Greek workers has produced a backlash against the government and PASOK.

The GSEE is in deep crisis and already unions influenced by the Communist Party are preparing some kind of anti-GSEE alliance.

The action of the OME-OTE trade union bureaucrats clearly show that they and their ilk have gone all the way to the management’s side.

A first result will be splits within the big public sector’ unions to the ‘left’ and to the ‘right’.

The Greek government will now be accelerating their push for the imposition of ‘flexible’ conditions and ‘pensions reforms’ either by agreements or through parliament.

Workers’ resistance will surely mean violence from the state forces to implement anti-working class Bills through dictatorial measures.