Different worlds collide in labor law debate

Different worlds collide in labor law debate

The new labor law bill fiercely debated in Greek Parliament on Wednesday highlighted the huge chasm between the government and opposition SYRIZA and the wider conflict between two vastly different political outlooks.

Indeed, the exchanges between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras were particularly acrimonious.

“We are removing obsolete ideological frontiers and redesigning the arc of the forces of renewal and genuine progressive action,” Mitsotakis told lawmakers on Wednesday, lacing his comments with clear ideological features, while criticizing SYRIZA over the quality of its criticism.

In response Tsipras decried the government’s policies, saying it is “systematically walking backward” misguided by perceptions of the past. 

“It’s as if the mausoleum of neoliberalism rules the country. You want to impose this dystopia as progress. Suddenly you became a progressive force, (dismissing) what we say as anachronistic slogans of the Left,” Tsipras said, adding that “this dystopia cannot be the future of our country.” Mitsotakis defended the government’s new labor law, arguing that it “sets some rules in the [labor] jungle” and “builds a modern working environment” in Greece.

He said that the existing labor law makes no provision for the changes brought on by technological developments, such as teleworking, or the role of both parents in raising their children.

Among the changes introduced by the bill are a 14-day paid paternity leave. Mitsotakis said this is the first time this is happening in Greece, while noting that it is longer than the 10 days foreseen in European legislation. What’s more, new fathers will be protected from dismissal for six months.

With regard to strikes, Mitsotakis says the bill aims to prevent strikes deemed illegal by a court, arguing that labor action is often carried out by a few to the detriment of many.

“That is why the new law comes to change the situation that existed since 1982,” he told MPs and accused those who oppose the bill as supporters of “conservatism and stagnation.”

Mitsotakis also called for a roll-call vote on all the articles of the bill.

The most contentious part of the bill cited by its opponents and labor unions is the provision that allows employees to work up to 10 hours on one day and less time on another. Detractors insist that it will enable employers to force workers to accept longer hours.

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