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Greece Approves New Labor Law as Unions Strike

Greece labor law strike
Unions demonstrate against the labor bill in downtown Athens. Credit: Greek Reporter

Greece’s parliament approved a new labor law on Wednesday, as trade unions strike for the second time in a week.

Ships remained docked at ports, and many bus, subway and railway services were suspended as transportation staff walked off the job.

Workers from other sectors also held work stoppages and were expected to join several demonstrations in central Athens before the vote on the bill later on Wednesday.

Unions say that the new law will bring longer hours and weaker rights. The most disputed part of the bill allows employees to work up to 10 hours on one day and less time on another day of the same week. Unions fear that will enable employers to force workers to accept longer hours.

The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) condemned the bill saying it is a blow to the labor market. “The Confederation has from the outset expressed its strong disagreement with the controversial provisions of the labor bill, which would deal a huge blow to the labor market, collective bargaining and society,” the GSEE said in a statement.

“The legislative initiatives announced by the government for the abolition of the eight-hour working day and the further reduction of workers’ rights require the dynamic and coordinated reaction of all trade unions,” the Panhellenic Maritime Federation added.

Greece’s government say labor law will increase competitiveness

In May, Greece unveiled a new labor bill which the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis says 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.

During a debate in Parliament on Wednesday, Mitsotakis defended new labor law, arguing that it “sets some rules in the (labor) jungle” and “builds a modern working environment” in Greece.

He said existing labor law makes no provision for the changes brought on by technological developments, such as teleworking, or the role of both parents in raising their children.

The new bill introduces for the first time a 14-day paid paternity leave, Mitsotakis said, pointing out that it is longer than the 10 days foreseen in European legislation, while the new father will be protected from dismissal for 6 months.

Concerning strikes, Mitsotakis says the bill aims to prevent strikes ruled illegal by a court, arguing that labor action is often carried out by a few to the detriment of many.

“That is why the new law comes to change the situation that existed since 1982,” he told MPs and accused those who oppose the bill as supporters of “conservatism and stagnation.”

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