Olympic Airways' employees are taking strike action over the Socialist government's decision to impose new working conditions.

A series of strikes by Olympic workers in April reduced the flag carrier's services to one daily flight to one destination. Some 50 international and 30 domestic flights were being cancelled daily, with no strike settlement in sight.

The government has stated that it is not willing to invest any more money in the airline. Olympic's losses were 6.5 billion drachmas (US$20.3 million) in 1997, and it estimates the deficit will widen to 60 billion drachmas over the next five years without drastic cost cutting measures.

The government is demanding drastic restructuring, including the closure of unprofitable routes, and in early April was to legislate for a three year wage freeze for all staff, longer working hours for flight crew, and a cut in benefits.

The pro-Socialist leadership of the Federation of Civil Aviation Associations (Ospa), which represents Olympic's unions, agrees with government proposals but has so far failed to convince its members, says Lefteris Vamakoulas, of pilots union Halpa.

Olympic workers have been offered a 4 per cent stake in the airline in exchange for accepting government proposals and a further 6 per cent in 2001, says Vamakoulas.

Vamakoulas rejects proposals on increased pilots' flying hours. 'If we accept the proposals we are going to have a very serious safety problem.' Vamakoulas says the Greek government is provoking union hostility by threatening to annul contracts if its demands are not met. The airline will not comment on the dispute.

Source: Airline Business