Greece to UNI Europa: We’ll bring back collective bargaining bigger and better than before
Greece’s Labour Minister vowed to put collective bargaining and workers’ rights at the centre of the country’s economic recovery during talks with UNI Europa in Athens.
Minister Panos Skourletis met with UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig as negotiations between Greek and EU ministers over the country’s bailout package remained in deadlock.
“In Greece, we lived through the experience of neo-liberal policies that were catastrophic for our working people,” Skourletis said.
“During the last five years we have seen the de-regularisation of industrial relations. For us at the Ministry of Labour our main task is to bring back legislative and institutional reforms, to bring back collective bargaining and to bring back labour rights – not only how they were before austerity but giving them an even wider plain of implementation.”
Roethig - in Greece to discuss support for Greek unions following a near-complete breakdown in labour rights under the previous government – is calling on the new government to make collective bargaining a key priority.
“As we speak, the Ministry is working on writing the new legislation and we hope to bring it before parliament within a month,” Skourletis told him in a wide ranging conversation that explained his vision for the future of Greek labour relations.
“We want to strengthen and enhance labour inspections and, with them, give new powers to workers. We want this to be the spearhead of our policy to bring back and protect the concept of social rights and democracy in the workplace,” he added.
Greece is seen by the union movement as the most extreme and damaging example of crippling austerity measures put in place across Europe. The humanitarian crisis has been compared to the country’s situation following the Second World War. Around 2.5 million people are living close to or under the poverty line.
Austerity has seen the country’s GDP drop by 25% per cent and has failed to increase productivity and competitiveness. Over a quarter of the workforce are now unemployed and real income is down by more than 21%. Youth unemployment stands at around 50%. Hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, homes and livelihoods.
“It’s heartening to hear this government’s plans because a return to collective bargaining and proper and fair labour laws after their brutal destruction under the previous administration is absolutely critical for Greece,” Roethig said.
“What happens here will have a ripple effect across Europe. This was a democratic decision to end years of pain caused by austerity and we expect to see people taking to the streets across the continent having been inspired by the Greek struggle.”