The International Monetary Fund has raised the issue of labor relations in Greece and is demanding it be resolved during the first bailout review. This indicates that the Fund won’t back down on any of the pending issues connected to the bailout program that it considers crucial, while illustrating its intention to press the Greek government for the deal’s full implementation.
The issue of labor relations mainly concerns group layoffs, lockout rights, as well as union law interventions. This matter was not due to be discussed now, although an opinion from the International Labor Organization had been expected in the meantime.
Since late 2015, eurozone officials have been insisting that the labor relations issue will be a discussion topic in the context of the second bailout review rather than the first. However, the IMF demand for the issue to be addressed and dealt with now shows there is a difference of opinion between the Fund and the eurozone over how to handle the first review.
Although the issue has not yet been put to the government in official terms, sources say it is being discussed by the creditors. If it were put to Athens now, it would hardly come as a surprise to the Finance Ministry, which has always feared the IMF might try to bring up more issues in this review besides the social security reform and the fiscal measures. This is why Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has called on the Fund not to delay the review.
At the moment there is a debate on the creditors’ side over creating a single front vis-a-vis Athens, with sources saying the Fund is resolute in its demands as regards what issues should be covered during these negotiations as well as its insistence that the labor relations changes be tabled without delay.
The technical experts of the creditors are arriving in Athens today and tomorrow, although the weather in the US may delay the arrival of IMF experts by a couple of days. That would also entail a delay in the arrival of the heads of the creditors’ missions to Greece, expected at the end of this week or early next week.
Given the IMF’s unyielding stance, there may be significant delays to the review’s completion. On Monday, European Stability Mechanism head Klaus Regling expressed hope that the review will be completed before Easter.