November 27, 2019 / 3:21 PM / 9 days ago

Greek power utility workers walk out to protest labour reform law

ATHENS (Reuters) - Workers at Greece’s Public Power Corp (PPC) launched a two-day strike on Wednesday to protest a draft law aimed at reforming the troubled utility, its largest labour union GENOP/DEH said.

The strike came as Greek lawmakers debated a bill that would introduce flexible wage contracts for new hirings, cut discounts on employees’ and pensioners’ electricity bills in place since 1990, and set conditions for voluntary exits.

The union, which represents 18,000 workers, has scheduled a rally in central Athens at 1500 GMT to protest the bill.

“Together, we should protect labour rights that have been in place for decades and not allow collective labour agreements to be violated,” GENOP/DEH said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for PPC said the firm had no comment on the strike.

The walkout, in force since one minute past midnight, is not expected to affect the utility’s operations materially, as power demand has been weak due to hot weather, a PPC unionist said.

Workers also oppose a government plan to shut down all coal-fired plants that PPC operates in the country by 2028 in an effort to help Europe meet its targets for climate change.

PPC, which is 51% state-owned, has reported losses since 2018, hurt by carbon emission costs and the impact of a deal between Greece and its official lenders to open up the sector to competition.

The new conservative government which took power in July is keen to reform the utility, which is saddled with 2.8 billion euros of bills left unpaid by Greek consumers during the country’s financial crisis.

This may entail selling some of its operations.

Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Jan Harvey

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