What’s happening: Thousands of Greek public sector workers have taken to the streets, marching on the Greek parliament, expressing their discontent over newly proposed labor laws by the government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Why it matters: The protests are in response to a recent parliamentary vote on a labor law revision. The change is seen as the government’s belated attempt to align with a 2019 European directive focusing on transparent and predictable working conditions. Additionally, as proposed by these laws, extended working hours could have long-term repercussions on population demographics.
Vote breakdown: The bill secured its passage with 158 members in favor while 136 opposed it. Notably, Mitsotakis’s New Democracy party was the sole supporter of the bill.
- Allows full-time employees to engage in part-time secondary jobs and extends working hours to 13 daily.
- Envisages a six-day work week in specific sectors, such as heavy industry and tourism. Furthermore, the idea of Sunday being a rest day could be eliminated in these sectors.
- New hires could face up to six months of probation and be laid off in the first year without compensation or prior notice.
- Introduces punitive measures, including fines and potential imprisonment, against those obstructing workers during strikes.
- Incorporates ‘on-call’ contracts, excluding defined working hours—a provision employers must notify their employees about.
Demographic Concern: Studies consistently show that extended working hours, increased employment insecurity, and decreased work flexibility reduces fertility rates. With Greece already grappling with an aging population, this labor law could exacerbate the country’s demographic crisis.
- Opposition viewpoint: Syriza’s MP Theano Fotiou criticized the intent behind a six-day work week, suggesting it’s a strategy to avoid hiring additional staff.
- Union’s stand: ADEDY, Greece’s major public sector union, believes the new law undermines essential workers’ rights and has called for its withdrawal.
Experts weigh in:
- Klaus Heeger, secretary general of CESI, expressed concerns about the potential changes, emphasizing the dire situation of Greece’s public sector. ADEDY’s Dimitris Bratis also highlighted that labor shortages in vital welfare sectors, like health and education, surpass 40%.
Despite restoring the minimum wage to €910 monthly, Mitsotakis’s party, in power since 2019 and recently re-elected, faces the challenge of high unemployment rates, particularly among young Greeks.
The bottom line
While the government tries to sell the labor law changes to rejuvenate Greece’s employment landscape, significant opposition from workers, unions, experts, and the potential demographic implications indicate a contentious path ahead.