September 5, 2012

Troika Demands Greeks Adopt Six-Day Workweek

Leaked letter shows new demand in exchange for continuing bailout

A New Democracy supporter waved a Greek flag during a rally in Athens before the election in June. (Photo: AP) A New Democracy supporter waved a Greek flag during a rally in Athens before the election in June. (Photo: AP)

Greeks could be forced into harsh new labor regulations as part of the terms of its bailout, according to a leaked letter from the so-called troika of the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Among those new demands is the implementation of a six-day workweek—but that’s not all. Also included are strictures on the minimum wage, working hours, overtime limits and vacations—all measures guaranteed not to be popular in a country where people are already struggling with a years-deep recession.

The Guardian reported late Tuesday that the letter from the troika spelled out tough new demands in exchange for releasing funds to Greece for the next tranche in its bailout. The country is seen as not complying with the existing terms of its bailout—all deeply unpopular in a country where the newest government, elected on a promise to seek additional time to meet commitments, is now struggling to hold together a weak coalition to adhere to bailout terms.

The letter, which was sent last week by troika officials to Greece’s finance and labor ministries, said in part, “Measure: increase flexibility of work schedules: increase the number of maximum workdays to six days per week for all sectors.”

Also included were orders to: “Increase flexibility of work schedules; set the minimum daily rest to 11 hours; delink the working hours of employees from the opening hours of the establishment; eliminate restrictions on minimum/maximum time between morning and afternoon shifts; allow the consecutive two-week leave to be taken anytime during the year in seasonal sectors."

It also called for a cut in the minimum wage and for the national labor inspectorate to be put under European supervision.

While the letter reflects the growing impatience of the EU, and in particular Germany, with Greece’s efforts to meet the terms of its bailout, imposition of additional conditions on work in a country where the unemployment rate is already hovering around 30% is sure to meet pushback. Just last week Antonis Samaras, Greece’s prime minister, said at a meeting of government officials that this batch of austerity measures would be the last.

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