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Greek electricity workers threaten strike over reforms
November 20, 2011 / 1:21 PM / 6 years ago

Greek electricity workers threaten strike over reforms

* Workers at power producer threaten rolling 48-hour strikes

* No specific date set for strike yet

* Workers oppose government plans to open up coal market

ATHENS, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Workers at Greece’s biggest power producer PPC threatened on Sunday to call a wave of strikes in opposition to plans to loosen the company’s grip over the country’s coal reserves, Greece’s most abundant and cheapest source of energy.

Greece’s international lenders are pushing Athens to lift state-controlled PPC’s de facto monopoly on the production of lignite, a form of soft, brown coal that forms the backbone of electricity production in Greece.

Under a European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout plan, debt-laden Greece needs to open up 40 percent of the lignite market to private energy firms.

PPC, Greece’s dominant electricity player, is the EU’s second-biggest and the world’s sixth-biggest producer of lignite.

But the company’s labour union GENOP said in a statement it would announce rolling 48-hour strikes as soon as Greece’s new coalition government, led by former European Central bank vice president Lucas Papademos, announces specific measures to implement the plan.

“This government of special interests, which was imposed on the Greek people against its will, has to know it will have to overcome many obstacles before it manages to sell off the Greek people’s property,” the union said in a statement.

GENOP has also vowed to boycott a property tax that is being collected through electricity bills, an emergency measure imposed in September as a last-ditch effort to meet the country’s budget targets.

Papademos’ government, backed by Greece’s two major parties, received an overwhelming vote of confidence last week in parliament to implement the bailout deal and push reforms to save the country from bankruptcy before fresh elections are held early next year.

Greek Energy Minister George Papaconstantinou told parliament during the confidence vote debate that Greece and the EU were close to finalising a deal to open up the lignite market.

GENOP is one of Greece’s most hardline labour unions. Over the past years it has repeatedly held successful strikes that have disrupted electricity supplies and scuppered government plans to sell a stake or find strategic private partners for the company.

“It’s us or them,” the union’s statement said.

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