* Govt plans to privatise power utility PPC as part of
* Strikes begin as govt debates privatisation bill
* Govt says it won't allow strikes to hurt tourism
* Union: power is a public commodity and should be state run
ATHENS, July 1 Workers at Greece's
state-controlled power utility PPC will stage a series
of strikes from Wednesday, in the midst of the summer tourism
season, to protest government plans to privatise the firm, their
union leader said.
Greece is beginning to emerge from a six-year recession and
has pinned its hopes on record tourism arrivals this year to
help boost its economy. The government has suggested it may
force people on strike back to work if power supplies are
"You cannot have 20 million tourists coming to the country
and deprive them of air-conditioning," government spokesman
Sofia Voultepsi told Greek Skai radio on Tuesday after the
strike was announced.
"Unions will not take the country hostage."
Stamatis Relias, the head of PPC's biggest trade union
GENOP-DEH, told Reuters that the union planned to launch 48-hour
rolling strikes starting on Wednesday, as parliament is expected
to begin debating a draft law allowing the government to
privatise PPC in 2015, as part of Greece's EU/IMF bailout.
"We believe power is a public commodity which should remain
under the state's control," Relias said.
Greece was hit by a series of public sector strikes after
the government introduced stringent austerity measures in 2010
as part of its bailout programme but industrial action has been
less frequent as the economy has shown signs of picking up this
A PPC executive, who spoke on condition on anonymity, said
industrial action was not expected to disrupt power supply as
there was enough production capacity to cover demand.
The unions are backed by the main leftist opposition Syriza
party, which has threatened to vote against the bill in
parliament. The government has said it would take "all necessary
measures" to make sure the unions do not disrupt the peak
The government owns 51 percent of PPC and plans to spin off
30 percent of the firm to a private competitor.
Greece, which is kept afloat by a 240-billion-euro bailout
by the European Union and International Monetary Fund must pass
the legislation to clear the way for its energy market
liberalisation and be eligible for further rescue loans.
PPC generates about two-thirds of Greece's electricity
output and controls almost 100 percent of the retail market.
It has an installed capacity of 12,800 megawatts and is also
one of the world's biggest miners of lignite, a soft, brown coal
used in power production and seen as a heavy environmental
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Susan Fenton)