Labour reforms of SYRIZA government? On the occasion of Minister Achtsioglou speech in London

On Friday, March 22, Effie Achtsioglou, Greek Minister of Labour, Social Security and Social Solidarity, is set to deliver a speech to the London School of Economics, on “A New Model for the Greek Labour Market”. The harsh reality is that the SYRIZA government has not introduced any new model through its labour market reforms. In fact, it has continued pursuing the same regressive agenda that has been implemented by its predecessors since 2010, when the first bailout for Greece was agreed. While this statement could be supported by evidence in many fields since the inevitable capitulation of SYRIZA, we will restrain ourselves to describing the most critical reforms on the labour market.

The fourth memorandum that was voted by SYRIZA in May 2017, loosened the regulations on employment protection, making it easier for employers to enact collective dismissals. Even the requirement of administrative control and approval of such dismissals from the Ministry of Labour was abolished, adopting the so-called “best practices” of EU. For years, strikes have been one of the most powerful ways of collective action of Greek trade unions. In January 2018, similar to practices of Cameron’s government in the UK, the SYRIZA government passed legislation raising the requirements of calling strikes, a condition that was set up by the EU commission, European central bank and the IMF, to limit the frequency of strikes. While the Greek PM claims to take the country out of the restrictions of the memoranda and endless austerity, at the same time it seems that they need to suppress the protests and strikes over the measures that they are committed to implement against the workers and unemployed people.

An issue that has recently emerged, is the announcement of an increase of the minimum gross wage by the Greek government, changing from €586 to €650. A government that was elected promising to raise the minimum wage to €751, presents this increase as an emblematic action, while the 500 most profitable Greek companies increased their profits by 25.8% in 2017, compared to 2016. The impact of this change on the lives of those who work under part-time or temporary contracts (more than 20% of them get paid with less than €300 per month) or in general the employees (more than 40% of them earn a salary less than €700), cannot be compared to the 20% average slump of Greek wages during the last 10 years of capitalism’s global crisis. Due to some reforms related to the memoranda, a side-effect of the minimum wage’s increase is that those who are self-employed will have to pay €20 more per month in the social security contributions, lowering the real increase of the gross wage from €64 to €44!

It is worthwhile to mention that what SYRIZA is trying to present as an “increase of the minimum wage”, is nothing but the implementation of a law that SYRIZA had fiercely opposed, voted from the previous ruling party of New Democracy, that established the blockage of collective bargaining. Thus, the minimum wage can no longer be a subject of negotiations between the trade unions and the employers. It can only be determined unilaterally by the government.

Another fact that must be interpreted, is the fall in the unemployment rate by 8% during the last 4 years. This has been a result of the dramatic increase of part-time and temporary contracts, from 5% to 9%, while 61% of the new contracts that were signed in the first 8 months of 2018 were part-time. This is also proved by the fact that 2.3 million dismissals and 2.4 million new contracts were signed in 2018, clearly showing the vicious circle between short-time jobs and unemployment.

ANTARSYA, the Anti-capitalist Left front in Greece, will take initiatives to build an anti-capitalist – anti-governmental – internationalist anti-EU front, to oppose the attack on workers’ rights, to fight back against austerity and the escalation of war threat, racism and fascism.

We fight for a better and more equal society without exploitation of human by human