Greece is on the verge of the biggest upheaval in working life in decades after its pro-business government sought to label Parliament’s passage of controversial labor laws as a new start for a once nation at the center of the European financial crisis.
The passage of legislation described as antediluvian by opponents and positively upsetting by supporters came hours after the EU’s top leader arrived in Athens on Thursday to approve a post-pandemic recovery plan for the country .
“Today I am very happy to announce that the committee has given the green light to Greece’s national recovery plan,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech to the Ancient Agora of Athens as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stood. next to her. âThis planâ¦ belongs to the Greek people and will transform the Greek economy. “
Dubbed Greece 2.0, the program unblocks â¬ 30.5 billion (Â£ 26 billion) in grants and loans to support 175 critical investments in areas ranging from the environment to digital reform.
The jubilant scenes contrasted sharply with the strikes, protests and heated debates that had unfolded before MPs voted on Wednesday night on labor reforms compared by veteran trade unionist Grigoris Kalomiris to “Thatcherian policies on steroids.” The measures include changes such as the ability for employees to opt for a longer working day in exchange for time off.
For Mitsotakis, a former banker determined to modernize the economy, changes in the workplace are long overdue. Addressing the chamber to 158 MPs approving the employment laws, he called the reforms essential, saying the bill would bring Greece into line with the rest of Europe by revising legislation that goes back in the pre-internet age and aligning it with the digital age. .
The reforms also set rules on remote working and include safeguards against sexual harassment in the workplace.
âThe core of this legislation is pro-worker, it is deeply growth-oriented,â he told the 300-member house, dismissing claims it officially abolishes the eight-hour workday.
Mitsotakis’ center-right administration has met fierce resistance to the bill. Opposition parties decried the reforms, arguing that they nullify long-established workers’ rights in the name of flexibility and EU diktats that erode legal protections.
Mitsotakis is accused by critics of exploiting the lockdowns imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to push through the contentious bill in parliament.
âYou baptize the Middle Ages, the Enlightenmentâ¦ [with] the logic of more work, less pay, no protection, âsaid left-wing Syriza party leader and former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, promising to reverse the reforms if he wins the next elections.
Under the legislation, employees will be forced to work overtime, Tsipras said, but should be content with “a day off instead of extra pay.” He added: âIt means working more for less pay and without [job] Security.”
The center-left Movement for Change party called the regulations “ruthless,” saying the adoption of reforms such as paternity leave was a fig leaf for the adoption of neoliberal policies that would facilitate layoffs and would prevent strikes.
“Faced with these policies, every progressive citizen cannot remain indifferent or silent,” declared its leader, Fofi Gennimata. âThe holidays do not pay the bills or the holidays. “
The reforms have also been criticized as a clear attempt to break union power, with opponents citing the stipulation that businesses, including public services, continue to operate with a third of the “security staff” when strikes are called. .
âAll the rights, all the responsibilities that unions have won have been undermined,â Kalomiris told the Guardian. âCollective labor agreements have been overruled by individual labor contracts that favor employers. The eight-hour work day was replaced by 10-hour work days with the promise of less work on other days and the loss of overtime payment.
“What we are seeing 40 years later are Thatcherite steroid policies.”
In a country with a vibrant tradition of unions organizing walkouts and protest rallies, it remained to be seen whether many of the measures could be implemented, he warned.
“It’s a country where unemployment is still officially around 15%,” he said, insisting that the actual figure after the pandemic was more like 20%.
âIn such a climate, there is no way to hinder the strike. We will use all our strength to resist it.