Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Greece - OTE

Hellenic Telecom Union Fears Job Losses Under Deutsche Telekom

OME-OTE, the union group representing 16,000 workers at Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA, said it's concerned that jobs will be cut at the former phone monopoly after Deutsche Telekom AG bought a stake.

Assurances by Chief Executive Officer Panagis Vourloumis over the weekend that Greek law protects jobs at the company are unconvincing, Panagiotis Koutras, OME-OTE president, said in a phone interview today.

``It's words,'' said Koutras. ``There's no agreement anywhere and if you look at what Deutsche Telekom did with its employees in Germany, I don't think anyone can be convinced by these words.''

Deutsche Telekom, Europe's biggest telephone company, last week agreed to buy a 20 percent stake in Hellenic Telecom for 2.5 billion euros ($4 billion) from Marfin Investment Group SA. The Bonn-based company, which reported a surprise loss last month on costs to eliminate jobs, is seeking growth opportunities as clients cancel fixed lines in Germany and U.S. mobile competition heats up.

The deal is conditional on Greek government approval for Deutsche Telekom to raise its stake beyond 20 percent and get management control. The Greek state, which owns 28 percent of Hellenic Telecom, won't let its holding fall below 20 percent, Greek Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said in an interview with Flash Radio on March 21.

OME-OTE held a rally outside the company's Athens headquarters this morning, the first of planned protests this week. Unionists prevented staff from entering the building until about 10 a.m. before dispersing, said a company spokeswoman, who declined to be named. The group has said it will strike for three days from March 26.

The General Confederation of Greek Workers, the umbrella group for about 2 million non-government workers, warned of ``a storm of protests and industrial action'' if the stake sale proceeds, according to an emailed statement today.

Hellenic Telecom must remain under the control of the Greek state, Koutras said. Alogoskoufis, who met with union representatives last week, wasn't clear on whether management would remain under Greek control.

``He implied the Germans would have the day-to-day running, while issues of major importance will be held together with the Greek state,'' Koutras said.

In statements to Eleftherotypia newspaper yesterday, Alogoskoufis said he aimed at joint management of Hellenic Telecom, in which both Deutsche Telekom and the Greek state would play a role.

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