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Greece Unveils Labor Bill with Emphasis on Working Hours Flexibility

Labor bill Greece
Greek trade unions are angry with the new labor bill. Credit: Facebook/GSEE

Greece unveiled on Wednesday a new labor bill which the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis says it will increase competitiveness through more flexible working hours.

The bill has been criticized by the left-wing opposition and unions who fear the changes will undermine worker rights.

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Kostis Hatzidakis presented the draft legislation, titled “For the Protection of Labor”, and said that it was in line with European best practices and groundbreaking labor legislation.

“The labor law is antiquated,” Hatzidakis told a news conference. “The core of the bill goes back to 1982. In 1982 the Internet, let alone teleworking, was a distant dream.”

He highlighted the fact that the bill explicitly guarantees the eight-hour work day, and a five-day or 40-hour working week.

Labor bill foresees flexible working hours

The most contentious part introduces flexibility to the eight-hour workday by allowing employees to work up to 10 hours on one day and fewer on another, or take time off.

The bill, Hatzidakis claims, makes it illegal to dismiss an employee for refusing flexible working hours.

Mitsotakis said the bill was intended to protect workers. “It strengthens their rights…, corrects injustices of the past. In short, it gives power to the employee,” he tweeted.

Other innovations include a longer paternity leave, with 14 days paid leave instead of 10, protection of new fathers from dismissal for six months after birth and fewer disincentives for the hiring of women.

It also allows four months parental leave for each parent, with employment agency OAED subsidies for two months.

Provisions for trade unions

Other contentious measures contained in the bill are the provisions for the trade unions.

  • It requires all trade unions to register, as a precondition for collective bargaining or declaration of a strike.
  • It introduces an electronic voting system for union members before a strike is announced.
  • It requires from the unions in major public utilities to provide at least one third of the total employees as emergency staff during a strike.

The draft bill has also introduced measures such as a digital labor card, designed to avert social security contribution evasion and unfair competition with businesses that uphold the law.

The government all claims that the card will reduce bureaucracy with abolition of the overtime book and other reports for businesses that adopt the digital card.

The project will be funded by the Recovery Fund and implemented gradually, starting with big businesses.

Issues addressed by the draft legislation include health and safety at work, violence and harassment at work, a work-life balance, remote online work, working hours flexibility, breaks, overtime and work on Sundays, protection from dismissal and digital systems for monitoring the labor market.

The left-wing Syriza opposition has criticized the bill, saying it restricts employee rights at a time when workers risk more job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Syriza leader and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras accused the government of moving against a worldwide trend to improve workers’ rights.

“(It) is trying to use the pandemic as an opportunity to impose the most anti-popular (measure) a Greek government has ever brought against the world of work: the abolition of the eight-hour working day.”

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