Greece is the country where workers were hardest hit by the financial crisis of 2008. They had to go through a decade of hardship with reduced purchasing power and precarious employment. In the same period, the share of workers covered by a collective agreement fell dramatically. All of these changes were supported or even instigated by the EU Troika, despite strong reactions from the European trade union movement.

A recent initiative by the current conservative government of Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, would only add to an already difficult situation. Key elements of this initiative are contrary to the European Pillar of Social Rights, to which all EU Member States are signatories. Furthermore, they conflict with the spirit of the Social Summit organised in Porto only last month.

At a time when many countries, including the Social Partners, discuss reductions of weekly hours in order to distribute employment more fairly, the Greek government suggests scrapping the 8-hour day and opening up for 10 hours. This would turn the clock back many decades and reverse hard-fought battles of trade unions to establish a balance between work and private life for their members. More overtime would disrupt the lives of workers and lead to burnouts.

Moreover, the Greek government proposes stricter rules on how to take industrial action. Limitations on the right to strike would violate principles that are globally recognised as essential to the functioning of a social model. Industrial action is a fundamental trade union right and a human right laid down by international conventions.

IndustriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary, Isabelle Barthès, emphasises that industriAll Europe stands firmly together with the Greek workers in this tense situation. “We call on responsible politicians in Greece to respect social dialogue, collective bargaining and basic workers’ rights. The authorities should sit down with the trade unions and try to find sensible solutions to present-day challenges in the labour market, without returning to systems that belong to the past.”

IndustriAll Europe has sent a letter of solidarity to its Greek affiliates and invites all other member organisations to support the fight of their Greek sister unions.

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication) and Erlend Hansen (policy adviser)