This is our weekly round-up from Greece.
This week a new labor bill became law of the state, institutionalizing an already existing jungle as to labor rights in Greece and attacking strikes and unionism. The government pushed ahead despite reactions from the people, all opposition, and crucial institutions.
There is evidence to suggest that the outcome of the “Moria’s 4” trial may have been prejudged. The defense spoke of somehow a parody of a trial - and the fact that the Press, international observers, and even a UNHCR representative were excluded from attending it points in the same direction.
There are reports that the country may be heading at speed towards harsh austerity once again. At the same time, the government is preparing to order a fourth VIP aircraft, PM’s wife is renovating Maximos Mansion not disclosing where the money came from and Dior launches its show with fireworks at the heart of a deeply disillusioned city.
But first, please, consider becoming a member.
You can give 2.5€, 5€, 10€, and 35€ on Steady. You can always make a one-off donation by clicking here. Your support helps us deliver newsletters like the following. If you like our work and want us to take it further, spread the word by FWding this email to your friends and join our international community! And don’t forget your membership enables us to produce more 100% ad-free content and continue delivering our independent journalism.
8-hour work, 8-hour rest, 8-hour sleep? Not in 2021 Greece.
The labor bill stripping working people in Greece from fundamental rights won centuries ago is a law of the State since Wednesday 16 June, passed only with the votes of the ruling ND party.
Despite strikes and marches by working people, despite reactions from all opposition parties, despite even the reserved Greek Judges and Prosecutors Union openly opposing it on constitutional grounds and despite even the Parliament’s Scientific Committee report attacking the heart of the bill, thus arguing that the individual employment contract for setting 10-hour workday is inconsistent with Labour Law.
As the Guardian put it, the new labor law will shake up working life in Greece.
To summarise once again the main points of the bill:
- A ten-hour workday could be agreed with an individual employment contract (as opposed to a collective one) between the employee and the employer. As the two parties are per se unequal, this gives the employer the freedom to impose his/her will on the employee.
- Overtime could be unpaid and exchanged with days off.
- Overtime hours limit is changed to 150 hours annually (instead of 120) and each hour will be paid (when paid and not exchanged with day-off) as a 40% bonus instead of 60% which was the law until today. According to data tabled in Parliament, this means that if an employee with a 900 euros wage was receiving 958 euros for 120 hours overtime, now he will receive 843 euros for 150 hours overtime.
It is more than apparent that 8-hour work is abolished while wages will be lower.
- If an employee has a court decision saying his laying-off was against the law, the employer a) is not anymore obliged to rehire him/her, and b) the employer will be paying for that a small part of the compensation and not paying for all months the employee had been illegally laid-off.
- For certain services, when there is a strike, a third of the personnel should be working as “security personnel”, thus annulling any effects of the strike. Plus, electronic voting for strikes is now obligatory for the private sector, something that prompted both the opposition and the Parliament’s Scientific Committee to object on the grounds that the system is open to manipulation - with the prospect open for the employees' vote becoming known to the employer.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis defended fiercely the bill in Parliament, employing sheer Orwellian language. Here are some quotes:
- “The bill is pro-labor and deeply developmental at its core.”
- The abolishment of 8-hour work is a myth and whoever supports this view “abolishes the Greek language and the social and political rationale, as [the 8-hour-work] is protected by article 55 and can only be realized only if the state exits Europe.”
- “Strike is distinguished from breaking the law”. This bill “puts rules in the jungle and overcomes Medieval times.” Moreover, as to strikes, “employees and non-employees become upset, as [strikes] even if often declared illegal, they finally take place by the few to the detriment of the many.”
Taking Orwellian arguments one step further, ND MP Miltos Chrysomallis, speaking in parliament with reference to the bill said that if we want to criticize Labour Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, “you could say to him -which is true- that in essence, he applies Bakunin’s theories.” Yes, you’ve read well, he referred to the theoretician of anarchism Michael Bakunin. “That is, he improves working conditions…”
We actually heard Bakunin turning in his grave.
One day after the bill was passed, Minister Hatzidakis once again attacked the unionists and threatened them: “We introduce civil liability for unionists who are breaking the law during a strike. Unionists cannot act their own way and stay unpunished,” he said. Going on with the government’s Orwellian language, he added that the new bill “empowers the employee and the Economy” as ND follows “what happens in developed countries.”
Where “developed countries” read “slavery colonies”.
Meanwhile, what appears to have been an organized plan to turn passengers against striking workers in the Port of Piraeus on 16 June utterly failed. Passengers interviewed said they had been notified by the shipping company the previous day that the ships will sail as normal. But when they went to the Port, they found ship workers were on strike.
“We are not against the workers, we are against the ship-owners that they didn’t not inform us properly… We are not opposed to the people who strike. We are all workers and the bill is a butchery,” one woman said. And there were almost all passengers on the same line.
And this was the good news of that day.
“Moria’s four” sentenced in prison with singular eye-witness and journalists absent.
On Saturday 12 June, four teenage asylum seekers were found guilty of ‘arson with risk to human life’ and sentenced to ten years imprisonment with no suspension and no mitigating circumstances at Chios island court after the fire in Lesvos Moria camp. Despite documents proving that three of the accused were minors at the time of arrest, they were tried as adults. Two of the six defendants had already been sentenced to five years imprisonment in March at the juvenile court in Lesvos.
Serious evidence suggests that legal standards may not have been upheld at that trial. The day before the trial, it was decided that it would be conducted without the presence of journalists, lawyers, and international observers - who were all excluded on the pretext of the pandemic.
According to lawyers of the defendants' legal team interviewed by The Press Project, the only thing that connects the six with the fire is one witness’s testimony. He was specifically called by the police and he gave five first names, claiming he had seen them putting fire. Then, the police showed him photos, and he immediately claimed to recognize them. According to the legal team, there are also inconsistencies as to the timing of the events the witness testified for and as the testimonies of the defendants appear to have been taken before their arrest.
Ministers Mitarachis and Chrysochoides made statements as to the arrest violating the principle of innocence, as they said that those responsible for the Moria arson had been arrested.
What is most provocative is that the one and only eye-witness who identified the defendants (the other 15 witnesses who testified against them had not seen them) never came to testify in court in either of the two trials. According to the defense, two weeks after his testimony on 28 September, the basic witness was granted asylum. His testimony was accepted in court, despite the fact the prosecution never tried to detect him. The defense has not been given access to his personal data so that they can find him. “The only case where such testimony can be read is if the witness is dead or has a serious long illness and cannot be present in court or if it is absolutely verified that he cannot be found.”
Moreover, according to Are You Syrious that cite Civil Fleet Reports on the Moria fire trials, “despite the fact that three of the youths were under 18 at the time of the fire, the judge rejected the defense’s application on Friday to try them in a juvenile court, meaning they will carry out their sentence in an adult prison.” We would add that as juveniles, their sentence would have probably been shorter.
The public was excluded from observing the trial. Two journalists from local media and two foreign correspondents applied to cover the trial as the principle of publicity had to be safeguarded. The defense applied for international legal observers to be accepted. None of the requests were accepted by the court. A UNHCR was also reported to have been prevented from observing proceedings. At least six police officers were in the room – a disproportionate number that was not necessary to secure the court.
This is how it is reported that the court decision was issued last Saturday. The appeal has already been filed and is expected to be examined in one year, and during this time the “Moria Six” will remain in jail.
“If we finally reach this point, the European Court will be ‘laughing’,” the defendants' side concluded.
Greece goes officially on austerity again while the “First Lady” renovates Maximos Mansion, the PM buys a third PM aircraft and Dior show gives glam to a dead country.
“Today I am very happy to announce that the commission has given the green light for Greece’s national recovery plan,” the European commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech at Athens’s ancient agora on Thursday 17 June as PM Mitsotakis, stood next to her. “This plan … belongs to the Greek people and will transform the Greek economy.” The plan, named Greece 2.0, provides for 30.5 billion euros in grants and loans being unlocked to support 175 critical investments in areas ranging from the environment to digital reform, according to the Guardian.
This “joyful spirit” of the Commissioner rubbing shoulders with the PM was in stark contrast to the protests against the labour bill the previous day. But it is also in stark contrast with the medium-term financial framework which the government will send to Brussels the following week. Because, according to reports, the framework foresees 16 billion euros austerity in 2022-2023, in order for the Greek economy to return to surpluses - as financial regulations are in effect again after the coronavirus “break''. According to the basic scenario for the Framework -said to be positively viewed by the Financial Council, Greece is obliged to heavy financial adjustment in order for primary deficits 6.7% (2020) and 7.1% (2021) to be turned into 2%+ surpluses from 2023 onwards, reaching 2.8% in 2024 and 3.7% in 2025.
Reports estimate that the after 2023 targets supersede even the commitments under the Memorandum.
Income taxes are also expected to rise and reach 21.1 billion euros at the end of 2025 from 17.9 billion paid in 2019 (an 18.1% increase).
And with citizens of Greece facing all these projections for an even grimmer future:
a. The government decided to acquire a new VIP aircraft for its high ranking officials, including the PM. We already have three VIP aircrafts. The fourth will be a Dassault Falcon 7X. The company suggested that our government buy a second-hand one, at 22 million, instead of a new one that would cost 36 million.
The government apparently considered that a “catch.” According to information, this will probably be integrated as “offset” to the Rafale purchase deal, so that its cost is somehow mitigated. Government spokeswoman said that there would be no extra cost for the state. But we really have no reason to believe her until we have some evidence. Also according to information, the government is considering even buying a second one. Like it’s mid-season sales or something?
b. We were “invited” this week by Architectural Digest to “Step Inside the Greek Prime Minister’s Creatively Refurbished Athens Headquarters.” “Led by the nation’s First Lady, Maximos Mansion—Greece’s ‘West Wing’—has been reborn as a celebration of Greek craft, design, and nationhood,” the international edition informed us.
At a piece-hymn for Mareva Grabowski and her “trained eye for design,” the writer informs us that “she couldn’t help but notice that the space where he worked running the country—and, pre-pandemic, received foreign officials—wasn’t exactly an advertisement for Greek aesthetics and industry.”
“My philosophy was that it has to be presentable, intriguing, and a representation of who we are,” says Grabowski-Mitsotakis. “This place represents the Greek people.”
Grabowski has obviously tried to be a step ahead of foreseen reactions, as she says in the interview referring to her husband, the PM: “He said, ‘You can do whatever you like, but it can’t cost the Greek state one penny.’”
Well, it remains to be published where the money came from. It still remains unspecified. The Mitsotakis family does not have a reputation for taking money out of their own pockets to invest in public property.
c. French fashion house Dior on Thursday held a firework-punctuated presentation of its 2022 Cruise collection in Athens at the Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games.
Both Grabowski’s “renovation” and the Dior show would be perfectly OK under different circumstances. But with the nation badly hit by the pandemic and the government passing all these regressive laws that will tear apart what’s left from people’s lives, they certainly seem as stark contrast and of colonial mentality (even if the “colonialists” in this case is a local elite).
Greek husband confesses to murder of British woman: Babis Anagnostopoulos had claimed robbers killed Caroline Crouch, 20, who was found dead next to her baby.
Middle-aged woman collapses and dies after 2nd Pfizer vaccine dose.
EU Digital Covid Certificate Inaccessible for Expat Residents in Greece.
Greeks in limbo over AstraZeneca jab: More than one million Greek citizens who received one or both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been left in limbo after the National Vaccination Committee suddenly recommended that the vaccine should be avoided by people under 60 years old.
Greece’s Bioethics Commission: “Compulsory Vaccination” only “a last resort”.
Greece eases tourists’ arrivals from “Green” countries and children up to 12.
Greece lifts more restrictions, including no mask in gyms for inoculated people.
Two in three 30-year-old Greeks live with their parents.
And don’t forget!
Your membership enables us to produce more 100% ad-free content and continue delivering our independent journalism. You can give 2.5€, 5€, 10€, and 35€ on Steady. You can always make a one-off donation by clicking here, but we prefer you to become a member so we can include you in our international community and start to interact in meaningful ways.
Do you have an Instagram account? We want to tell more engaging stories with photos from FOS PHOTOS archive. Follow us on Instagram. We won't use any unnecessary hashtags. Promise.
Are you a journalist? Do you have a good story? Here's how to pitch AthensLive.
Is there more stuff you'd like to hear from us? Do you have any ideas about how we could make our newsletter better for your understanding of Greece? Drop us a line at info[at]athenslive[dot]gr
If you enjoy our newsletter, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. The more people we can get involved with, the better this will be. Here's the latest version of our newsletter.
Thank you for supporting journalism and democracy.