Greek energy workers threaten strike against wage caps

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2011 5:35 PM
Greek energy workers threaten strike against wage caps

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek petroleum and electricity workers threatened late on Sunday to go on strike, to oppose planned wage cuts that form part of the debt-laden country's austerity drive.

Workers at the country's biggest refiner Hellenic Petroleum said they would start a walkout on Tuesday, demanding their exclusion from the provisions of a draft law which would cap their company's average wage cost per employee at 1,900 euros ($2,563) a month.

The cap was originally meant to apply just to civil servants, as part of spending cuts imposed by the EU and the IMF under the cash-strapped country's ongoing bailout programme.

But a last-minute change in the bill, which was submitted to parliament last week, it also included in its remit profitable, state-controlled companies that are listed on the stock exchange, such as Hellenic Petroleum.

"By late Wednesday all the company's three refiners will have ground to a halt," Hellenic's labor union leader Panagiotis Ofthalmides told Reuters.

Public discontent is rising in Greece as the government is taking ever harsher austerity measures to compensate for fiscal slippages which threaten to derail the country's EU/IMF-led rescue and plunge it into bankruptcy.

Workers at the dominant electricity producer PPC also vowed to oppose the law.

"PPC workers suffered in 2010 average pay cuts of between 15 and 50 percent... we won't allow the destruction of our families," their GENOP labor union said in a press release.

GENOP will decide later on Monday how exactly it will oppose the law, saying "it will use all available means of struggle."

If lawmakers approve the law in its current form, the cap would also apply to a string of other listed companies such as the country's two biggest water utilities Athens Water and Thessaloniki Water.

Greece is expected to sell stakes in the state controlled companies as part of a privatisation drive that also forms part of its debt-fighting plans.

(Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Editing by Peter Graff)