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Cheat Game: SYRIZA’s Fake Tug-of-War With the IMF on Labor Reforms

Greek Labor Minister George Katrougalos said his government considers the IMF’s demand as a ban on the right of workers to negotiate wages and conditions on a collective basis. Katrougalos noted that a breakdown with the IMF on the issue could jeopardize its financing of the 96-billion dollar bailout and could undermine overall confidence in the deal. The labor Minister said however that Greece can no longer tolerate the deterioration of its workers’ state. Talks are set to be held on Wednesday between Greece and an EU-IMF mission over the country’s bailout future.

This whole affair is a masquerade. It is a cheat game between IMF, EU and the SYRIZA government. The sad thing is that Greece and its people are paying the cost of this masquerade.

Let us decipher this cheat game.

The IMF, which primarily expresses the geopolitical and economic interests of the US, pressurizes

*the EU for a new Greek debt haircut. This is vehemently rejected by the EU (and Germany in particular)

*Greece for even more austerity and anti-popular reforms. Part of this new package is the more barbaric deregulation of labour relations (whose previous waves of deregulation have contributed to a dramatic increase in unemployment and an equally dramatic decrease in wages).

The IMF blackmails the other two that, unless its conditions are being met, it won’t participate in the third bailout and austerity programme for Greece that the SYRIZA government signed.

The EU wants a strict implementation of the austerity programme without a debt haircut. It considers only the case of an insubstantial debt reprofilling and that after the forthcoming German elections. It does not object in principle to more barbaric labour relations deregulation.

But, on the other hand, it is more sensitive than the IMF to the possible disastrous political repercussions of such a move. Especially, it worries that such a bold move might rekindle social resistance – that is dormant after SYRIZA’s betrayal of the anti-austerity movement – and lead to uncontrolled political changes.

Finally, the terribly incompetent and untrustworthy SYRIZA government is the underdog in this cheat game. It simply tries to save its skin and cling as long as possible in power (given its already very low popularity). It might accept another wave of labour relations deregulation if it goes together with even an insubstantial debt reprofilling (that they think that they can ‘sell’ to the Greek public). Their problem is that they have real power (either economic or in the form of popular support) to press their own objectives. So they are simply trying to find room to play between the positions of the two other big players.

On top of that the SYRIZA government and particularly its Minister of Labour are habitual liars. A recent example of this is their public declarations that pensions will not be cut at the very same time that they literally ‘massacre’ them. So the minister’s supposedly intransigent declaration against the IMF’s demands does not hold much water.

This originally ran on PressTV.

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Stavros Mavroudeas is a Professor of Political Economy in the Economics Department of the University of Macedonia.

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