PPC union’s understanding maintained with board waning

The tension within the ranks at main power utility PPC is heading towards boiling point as a result of bailout-linked requirements that demand the introduction of NOME auctions, this coming September – to reduce the utility’s market share by providing third parties with access to the utility’s low-cost lignite and hydropower sources – as well as the breakway of wholly-owned subsidiary IPTO, the power grid operator.

The concern felt by PPC managers and unionists over the utility’s future is evident, to say the least, judging by comments offered to journalists. The managers and unionists not only appear unconvinced by the administration’s handling of the corporation’s challenges, but are also no longer hesitating to publically criticize chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis and his board.

They have already described the PPC leadership’s envisaged plan to expand into Albania as an act of desperation. In addition, initiatives talked about for electricity retail market partnerships – ELTA (Hellenic Post) has been mentioned as a possible partner – should have been taken much earlier, troubled utility officials have stressed. PPC will no longer be able to make up for revenue losses to result from its bailout-required market share contraction to less than 49 percent by 2020, they added.

A rift between the administration and Genop, PPC’s main union group, now appears possible. The two sides have so far somehow managed to maintain a level of understanding.

The union group is casting thickening public aspersions at the utility’s leadership as a PPC general shareholders meeting, scheduled for June 30, approaches. The Greek State, which holds a 51 percent stake in PPC – this includes a 17 percent share now held by TAIPED, the State Privatization Fund – is expected to endorse PPC’s board to act on bailout measures.

Genop officials are now openly admitting that their expectations of the utility’s leadership have been let down since April, 2015, when former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis – who led Syriza’s radical left before leaving to form his own political party – hand-picked Panagiotakis for PPC’s top job. A long-serving company official who rose through its ranks, Panagiotakis even led the Genop union between 1990 and 1991.

PPC’s current Genop union president, Giorgos Adamidis, recently said control was being lost at PPC, adding that the utility’s unpaid receivables now exceed 2.7 billion euros.

The union leader’s concerns are shared by various managers at the utility who now realize that the PPC of the future will be a far smaller enterprise facing greater competition and unpaid debt than the company currently employing 18,750 persons.

Until now, there has been no talk of strike action, but, judging by the past, Genop could spring into action as the urgency intensifies. The union group will hold a meeting of its own ahead of the PPC shareholders meeting at the end of the month. Any moves by Genop will probably be announced then.