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New Greek labour laws are ‘Thatcherite policies on steroids’

‘Ruthless’ new regulations will mean ‘working more for less pay and without job security.’ TONY BURKE explains why Greek workers are in need of our solidarity

AT A recent meeting with European trade unions, Greek comrades outlined the drastic changes to employment law rammed through by the right-wing government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Described as “the biggest shake-up of working life in decades” the government proposals have been met with strikes and demonstrations as MPs voted through reforms. 

The government has faced fierce resistance over the changes, with opposition parties and unions arguing that the reforms roll back long-established workers’ rights and accusing the government of exploiting Covid lockdowns. 

Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza Party leader, has vowed to annul the reforms if he wins the next election.

“The legislation provides for workers to be forced to work overtime,” Tsipras said, but they would have to be content with “a day off instead of extra pay.” 

He added: “This means working more for less pay and without job security.”

The left-wing Movement For Change Party described the regulations as “ruthless.” 

“In the face of these policies any progressive citizen cannot remain indifferent or silent,” its leader, Fofi Gennimata, said. “Time off does not pay the bills or holidays.”

Greek unions say that these reforms are an attempt to break union organisation by allowing companies as well as public utilities, to continue to run with a third of “security personnel” when strikes are called.

“Every right, every responsibility that unions have won has been undermined,” said veteran union official Grigoris Kalomiris. 

“Collective work agreements have been annulled by individual work contracts that favour employers. 

“The eight-hour workday has been replaced by 10-hour workdays with the promise of less work on other days and overtime payments being lost. 

“What we are seeing, 40 years later, are Thatcherite policies on steroids.”

“This is a country where unemployment officially is still about 15 per cent,” he said, insisting that the real figure following the pandemic was more like 20 per cent. 

“There is no way in such a climate that strike action will be obstructed. We will use all our might to resist it.”

As we have seen in the past Greece has been used as an “experiment” for austerity and anti-worker labour laws that have spread to other countries in Europe. 

That is why we will need a concerted campaign of solidarity from unions around Europe to support Greek workers in struggle. 

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite the Union.

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