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Greece Braces for General Strike Against New Labor Law

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The Athens metro will be closed on Thursday as trade unions strike against labor bill. Credit: AMNA

Greece is bracing for a 24-hour general strike on Thursday called by country’s trade union federations, in protest to the government’s labor bill.

The strike called by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) will cause major disruption in public transport, public services and the media.

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“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, ” GSEE said in a statement.

On June 10, there will be no metro, electric railway (HSAP), or trolley and tram services, while the Hellenic Railways Organization’s (OSE) trains and those of the Suburban Railway (‘Proastiakos’) will also stay in their depos throughout the day.

Only buses will operate on Thursday, but only from 09:00 to 21:00, as workers there are staging a work stoppage at the start and end of their shifts.

Transportation sector workers will take part in the protest rally scheduled for 11:00 at Klafthmonos Square in central Athens on Thursday.

The ships in Greece are expected to remain moored, as the 13 seafaring unions of the Panhellenic Maritime Federation will also participate in the strike.

“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 Federation said in a statement.

All media (print, radio, internet), in the public and private sector, are also expected to strike.

In May, 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.”

Strike against 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.

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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