Greece mandates six-day working week amid controversy and protests

As Greece mandates a six-day working week to boost productivity, workers and unions decry the policy as a rollback of long-standing labor rights, sparking nationwide protests.

260
SOURCENationofChange
Image Credit: EPA-EFE/GEORGE VITSARAS

Greece’s pro-business government has mandated a six-day working week in a bid to turbocharge productivity, sparking widespread controversy and protests. The policy, which takes effect on Monday, extends the working week to 48 hours, allowing employees in private businesses providing round-the-clock services to work an additional two hours a day or an extra eight-hour shift with a 40% wage top-up. Unions and workers have condemned the measure as “barbaric,” arguing it erodes long-established labor rights.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government introduced this policy as part of a broader set of labor laws passed last year, citing the twin challenges of a shrinking population and a shortage of skilled workers. Mitsotakis described the demographic shift as a “ticking timebomb,” noting that approximately 500,000 young, educated Greeks have emigrated since the debt crisis erupted in 2009.

“The nucleus of this legislation is worker-friendly, it is deeply growth-oriented,” Mitsotakis said before the Greek parliament endorsed the law. “And it brings Greece in line with the rest of Europe.”

However, unions and workers see the policy differently. Akis Sotiropoulos, an executive committee member of the civil servants’ union Adedy, criticized the move, stating, “It makes no sense whatsoever. When almost every other civilized country is enacting a four-day week, Greece decides to go the other way.”

Critics argue that in a country with almost no tradition of workplace inspections, the reform allows employers to dictate whether a sixth day of labor is required, ultimately sounding the death knell of the five-day working week. The backlash has been fierce, with opponents taking to the streets in protest, contending that the reform erodes legal protections and rolls back workers’ rights in the name of flexibility.

“In reality, this has been passed by a government ideologically committed to generating ever bigger profits for capital,” said Sotiropoulos. “Better productivity comes with better work conditions, a better quality of life [for employees], and that, we now know, is about fewer hours, not more.”

The legislation’s passage was partly facilitated by the weakening power of trade unions, which suffered as debt-stricken Athens enacted austerity measures in return for rescue funds during the financial crisis. Unions have long argued that overtime enables employers to avoid hiring more staff, exacerbating labor shortages and underemployment.

Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe, averaging 41 hours per week, according to the EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat. Despite this, surveys show they earn significantly less than their European counterparts. The left-wing opposition has frequently decried “Bulgarian salaries in a country of British prices,” claiming the phenomenon has only worsened the brain drain.

Under the new law, employees in select industries and manufacturing facilities can work an additional two hours a day or an extra eight-hour shift, rewarded with a 40% top-up fee added to their daily wage. The government asserts that this will redress the issue of unpaid overtime and tackle undeclared work, but critics are skeptical.

“What the government is essentially saying is ‘go and work longer, we’ll turn a blind eye even if you’re a pensioner,’” said Grigoris Kalomoiris, who heads the union of retired teachers (Pesek). “It knows that the majority of Greeks, on an average monthly salary of €900, can only survive until the 20th of the month. This latest barbaric measure is not going to solve the fundamental problem of labor shortages, and a lot of us feel it is very unfair to unemployed young Greeks who may never have a job.”

The measure has intensified debates about work-life balance and the quality of life in Greece.

FALL FUNDRAISER

If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.

SHARE
Previous articleTurning the Red Sea redder
Next articleBig Banks break their climate promises by propping up Big Meat
Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.

COMMENTS