ATHENS — A new draft law from the Greek Ministry of Labor and Social Security was introduced to Greece’s parliament for discussion in August 2023. One month later, the Greek Parliament’s Plenary Session witnessed a heated debate over the labor bill, specifically focusing on the incorporation of the EU Directive.

The legislation primarily focuses on integrating the European directive 2019/1152 which aims to ensure that all workers in the EU have clear, predictable, and fair working conditions, including those in non-standard forms of employment. This move is part of a broader effort to bolster workers’ rights, combat undeclared work, and streamline bureaucratic processes for businesses in Greece.

The discussion escalated into a bitter exchange between Adonis Georgiadis, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, and Thanasis Pafilis, a parliamentary representative and member of the Communist Party of Greece.

Georgiadis emphasized the necessity of the bill by referring to a recent strike at Cosco, where the entrance to the facilities was closed, preventing workers who wished to work from entering. He argued that the bill would put an end to such phenomena, ensuring the right to work for those who choose to do so, thereby ending what he termed the “tyranny of the KKE.”

Pafilis, in response, questioned the minister’s narrative, expressing skepticism about the claim that a small group could prevent a large number of workers from entering the workplace. He defended the strike at Cosco, stating that the workers there have experience and highlighting the historical strength and unity of workers in the face of laws perceived to criminalize strikes.

This intense debate underscores the contentious nature of the labor bill and the diverse and deeply held views on workers’ rights, the right to strike, and the balance between ensuring employment opportunities and respecting the rights of workers to protest and strike. The discussion in the Parliament reflects broader societal and political debates in Greece.

Key Provisions of the Bill

The proposed bill mandates employers to inform their employees about essential elements of their employment relationship and any changes in working conditions. It also addresses the issue of flexible forms of employment, providing a protective framework to prevent abuse of these special employment forms. Employers must notify employees about the variability of working hours, guaranteed paid hours, and additional remuneration for work performed beyond those hours.

Additionally, the bill allows for parallel employment, enabling employees to work for more than one employer, a practice currently prohibited in Greece. It also shortens the maximum duration for probationary work periods from 12 months to six months, ensuring proportionality to the expected duration of the contract and the nature of the work.

In alignment with the European directive, the bill stipulates that employers must provide free training to employees for the performance of their work. This training will be counted as working time and, if possible, will be carried out during working hours. The legislation also includes provisions for the reduction of bureaucracy for businesses that choose to implement the Digital Work Card, a tool designed to ensure transparency in employment terms and contracts.

The legislation emphasizes the protection of workers’ rights, including a clear definition of the probationary period and probationary employee in salaried dependent work. It addresses the issue of unpredictable work, particularly in the food and catering sector, by inserting safety and protective measures. Any unfavorable discrimination against the employee by the employer is prohibited, and in cases of retaliatory dismissal, the dismissal notice is null and void.

The bill proposes a hefty fine of €10,500 for employers found to be “falsifying” an employee, i.e., declaring a worker to be employed for fewer hours than actually worked. This measure aims to ensure full transparency in employment terms and contracts, combating undeclared and undeclared work.

Greek Labor Market Background

Greece’s labor market underwent significant fluctuations over the last two decades, mirroring the nation’s economic trajectory. The global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent European debt crisis had a profound impact, sending unemployment rates soaring to unprecedented levels. By 2013, the unemployment rate had reached a staggering 27.5%, with youth unemployment exceeding 50%. The crisis led to widespread austerity measures, wage cuts, and labor market reforms aimed at enhancing flexibility and competitiveness. Despite these efforts, recovery was slow, and the labor market remained strained, with high unemployment rates persisting.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 further exacerbated the challenges, causing additional economic contraction and job losses. By 2021, although showing signs of recovery, Greece’s labor market continued to grapple with the legacies of the economic crises and the ongoing impact of the pandemic, highlighting the critical need for robust and inclusive strategies to foster employment, economic growth, and stability.

According to EURES (European Employment Services Network), as of 2023, Greece’s labor market dynamics also highlight the situation of individuals outside the labor force. A large percentage have either never worked before or have been out of work for more than eight years. Among those who had worked within the last eight years, retirement and the end of limited-duration work were the primary reasons for stopping work.

The Greek labor market has also been influenced by immigration and the refugee crisis. Before the financial crisis, over one million foreign immigrants were working in Greece. However, the labor market slump led to a significant departure of foreign workers and their families. The refugee crisis further burdened the Greek economy, with a large influx of refugees and illegal migrants entering Greece, many of whom later moved to other EU countries.

Source/s: ΤΑ ΝΕΑ / EURES / World Bank blogs

Image source: Böhringer Friedrich / Wikimedia

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