NEWS

Low pay, no benefits, little security

Temporary or substandard employment with reduced or no benefits is becoming standard fare for Greece’s young people, who see a bleak work future. Many of them stick with bad or short-term jobs in the hope that something better will come up in the future. But they describe what lies ahead of them in dark terms. Dinos Dinos, 25, is the new kind of bank employee. He isn’t a member of the Greek Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE), so he isn’t paid the base salary agreed upon by collective bargaining. He works at one of many companies which are now offering contract instead of permanent employment. Dinos has a law degree from Athens University, with a major in political science, but, like many fellow graduates, he could not find a job and looked to temporary employment agencies for help. «We do most jobs at the bank, except for working as tellers,» he says. «However, whenever there is low-grade or boring work to be done, it’s passed on to us. Despite all this, we get about two-thirds or less of the base salary that regular bank employees get. We are insecure about our employment, since the contract only lasts a year. No matter if they renew the contract, we are hostages. Naturally, we are not in the union either, so OTOE cannot protect us. Once, when some temporary employees at the National Bank of Greece tried to complain about practices there, the bank didn’t renew their contracts. At the National Bank alone, I know of five temporary employment agencies that provide workers there – hundreds of young people, many of them university graduates. It’s like a slave market. I can’t imagine that this will be my future.» Babis «I started out in pizza delivery with the idea that it would be temporary,» says Babis, 27. «But since I couldn’t find any other job, I got stuck here. I make a living, sure, and it’s not bad. But it’s dreadful being on that moped all the time – in the cold, in the rain, in the hot sun. My back hurts, too. And the worst thing is that there is no insurance. It’s all money under the table, like the black market. If you ask for insurance, the boss laughs.» And what if he has an accident on the moped while on the job? «Look, it depends on the boss,» he says. «Most of the time, he helps. But I’ve heard of situations in which they just leave the kids to their own devices. As for retirement savings, I don’t even think of it.» Theodoris Four years ago, Theodoris, 30, a graduate of the National Technical University of Athens, got a job with a big research firm. He had the friendly sounding job title of «colleague.» But as a «colleague,» he wasn’t salaried. He got paid via invoices instead. «What could I do?» he says. «Most of my fellow graduates found jobs only through invoices… I got paid 800 euros a month, but I had to pay a portion of my insurance, too. After the Olympic Games and the decrease in construction, I was laid off. That’s when the employer came out and said, ‘sorry,’ he couldn’t fire older people with kids, so he would have to let the younger people go. I was out on the street without compensation, without any unemployment benefits. Now whenever I hear stories about ‘colleagues,’ I just have to laugh.» Dionysia Soon after she finished senior high school, Dionysia started looking for work. When she got into the job-training program called Stage, she couldn’t contain her joy. «I got placed in a big company on a nine-month contract,» she says. «I got only 20 euros a day, even if I only had pharmaceutical coverage and partial insurance. That didn’t worry us [Stage enrollees] at the time because we thought we would learn this job and maybe the company would let us stay. We never said no to anything. But during the course of things, we noticed we were doing all the drudgery and no one was teaching us any skills. After nine months… we got laid off, and we didn’t even get unemployment benefits. Now, after two years of looking for something else, I’m working at a supermarket. Things don’t look good there, either.»