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Thousands of Greeks protest ‘monstrous’ labour reform bill

24 hour general strike called by labour unions
Greek workers strike against labour reform bill at Piraeus port 10 June 2021. The strike was called by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Confederation (ADEDY) EPA-EFE/PANTELIS SAITAS

Thousands of Greeks marched in Athens on Thursday against government plans to overhaul labour laws which unions say will undermine workers’ rights and let companies bring in longer hours through the back door.

Greece’s biggest private and public sector unions staged a day-long strike that brought public transport to a standstill and kept ferries docked at ports.

“It won’t pass,” public sector union ADEDY said.

At least 10,000 people joined the rally outside parliament, which is expected to vote on the bill this month.

In announcing the bill in May, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative government said the measures would modernize “antiquated” laws dating back decades to a pre-internet time when most workers clocked into their offices and factories at the same set hours.

It said the changes would offer workers more flexibility to decide their own schedules and help tackle exploitation, unpaid overtime and undeclared work which have fuelled a large, untaxed grey economy.

The most contentious part of the bill allows employees to work up to 10 hours on one day and less time on another. Unions fear that will enable employers to force workers to accept longer hours.

A banner unfurled near the Labour Ministry in central Athens read “Hands off the 8-hour workday.”

Critics say the government is seeking to raise the eight-hour working day to 10 hours and scrap the five-day working week and collective bargaining agreements, as well as make it harder to call strikes.

The left-wing Syriza party said the bill was a “monstrosity” and called on the government to withdraw it.

“They will not take us back to the 19th century,” Syriza said.

The bill would also give workers the right to disconnect outside of office hours and introduce a “digital work card” to monitor employees working hours in real time, as well as increase legal overtime to 150 hours a year.

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