“War” has been waged and battle lines drawn by the country’s unions again. The why is not very important, because if their anger were not related to the “radical overhaul” of the labor market it would probably have been triggered by almost any other issue of government policy.
It is almost frightening that those who claim to represent and stand up for the “working people” appear completely ignorant (whether deliberately or not is another matter) of the fact that the world of the “working people” they refer to has changed entirely – and, depending on how you look at it, was annihilated or reborn as a result of the pandemic.
Who are these unions, which were not even able to coordinate a common response for Labor Day, supposed to be defending? Which working people are they fighting for? Is it civil servants or workers at state companies and banks? Is it the same people that the former head of the Public Power Corporation workers’ union, GENOP, Nikos Fotopoulos, tried to secure a special stipend of 6 euros a day for? What we do know is that the unions’ “heroic battles” of 2014-15 would be a thing of the past today if SYRIZA opposition leader Alexis Tsipras had not chosen to drag it all back up and give Fotopoulos a starring role in his campaign against the center-right government’s labor reform bill, which it is due to unveil in the next few days.
This campaign is a barren thing, fueled only by inertia and relying on stereotypes, the vestiges of a bygone era, a dead language, and completely missing the real issues at hand.
Manos Matsaganis, a respected professor of public finance at the Polytechnic University of Milan, recently commented on the status quo of those who work for delivery platforms. So widely praised during the pandemic for their valuable service, these workers have been left without protection. There is nothing to stop delivery companies from pretending that they are not employees but “associates,” therefore getting out of having to pay for their social security benefits, their healthcare in the event of an accident (which is very frequent) or even for the fuel for their bikes.
No one doubts that the gig economy can be innovative, cover the needs of consumers and offer job opportunities, as Matsaganis points out. But what is being done with the legal framework governing how they operate and how is the state attempting to control businesses that bend the rules or sail close to the wind? These important questions are at risk of being lost in the racket.