Greeks work most hours in EU

Almost a week after the prime minister said that his government would soon lay the legal groundwork allowing for changes to be made to the number of hours employees work in a week, new statistics have revealed that Greeks work longer than people from any other EU country. Figures from the EU’s statistical arm, Eurostat, made public last week, show that Greek workers spent just over 44 hours a week, including paid and unpaid overtime, at their jobs during 2004. Only Austrians worked longer (45 hours a week) but the new statistics mean that Greece has had the longest average work week over the last five years among the 25 EU members. According to a national collective agreement signed in 1984, workers who are provided with employment contracts by their bosses are only meant to work 40 hours a week. However, some professionals, such as bank employees and construction workers, are exempt from this rule as their unions have signed separate agreements. «The main reason for the longer work hours is that Greek workers have low wages and accept overtime employment so they can supplement their pay,» Professor Yiannis Kouzis of Panteion University and technical adviser to the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) told Kathimerini. He said that a third of employees worked overtime on a regular basis and one in five worked two or more jobs, driving up the average number of hours worked each week by Greeks. In an interview with last Sunday’s Kathimerini, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said one of his immediate priorities is to draw up a new commerce law, which would, among other things, allow work hours to be changed by employers as part of measures to «strengthen competitiveness» and «boost employment.»