ESEE slams looming reduction in minimum wage

The head of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) on Monday attacked the government for allegedly giving in to pressure from the country's foreign creditors for further wage cuts and labor system reforms.

“The red lines in the negotiations turned into red ribbons,” Vassilis Korkidis said in a statement issued Monday, criticizing an apparent agreement to slash Greece's minimum wage.

The leaders of Greece’s three coalition parties on Sunday met with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to discuss further reforms and austerity measures in exchange for more funding from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. Papademos aims to finalize the details on these points during a meeting on Monday.

While international creditors want the reduction of the minimum wage and abolition of two salaries granted to workers as bonuses in the private sector saying it is key to boosting competitiveness, the government has called the measures “a red line” that it will not cross.

Coalition party leaders on Sunday appeared to claim a victory in defending the so-called 13th and 14th monthly salaries. However sources have suggested that they will agree to a 20 percent reduced to the minimum wage -- currently at 751 euros per month (gross).

Analysts warn that a big cut in minimum wage will have the same, or even worse, effect on wages. Wage negotiations between employers and unions are traditionally held on the basis of the country's minimum wage. Unemployment benefits are also set against the same standard.

“We will fight to protect our businesses and the living standards of the Greek people,” Korkidis's statement concluded.

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