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Unions fiercely against layoffs in Greece

23 September 2011 / 13:09:39  GRReporter
4732 reads

Victoria Mindova 

Unrelenting civil servants from public transportation in Greece once again decided to use their constitutional right to protest and announced a 24-hour strike. Since Thursday, September 22, which was the global day of life without a car, Athenians were forced to move around with their own vehicles and on Friday they awoke once again to a city without metro, tram and urban electric train. The same fate awaits them also next Tuesday and Wednesday, when announced is a new 48-hour strike by all means of public transport including taxis. The owners of licensed taxi are struggling to limit the freedom of giving permits for taxi and public transport staff resent the measure for labor reserve, which began as mass redundancies in the wider public sector. The ones brought into service reserve will receive 60 percent of their gross salary for one year and then if the government decides it does not need them, they will be officially fired. 

GRReporter sought the opinion of the Scientific Institute economist of the Syndicate of private sector employees (GSEE) Savas Robolias of whether it is justified for state employees to benefit from the measure of the labor reserve, when the ones working in the private sector are rapidly losing their jobs after the beginning of the crisis. 

"The labor reserve is actually a disguised layoff. This measure was unavoidable, because at this point cuts in public administration are inevitable according to the government," said Robolias. He explained that the ones affected in the public sector in Greece will not receive social benefits from the job centers. Under the constitution they are protected from dismissal in order to protect public officials from the party purges in the alternation of power. Once accepted in government jobs, their position becomes permanent and the safety net programs by the labor proved unnecessary. The economic crisis and the need for consolidation and cost reductions require this measure to be somehow reversed or avoided. 

"As you might know, if you lose your job in the private sector, you are entitled to 12 months of welfare from the labor market. This does not apply to employees in the public sector. This is why now the state creates a fund similar to the labor bureaus in order for fired employees to have some type of social support, not to end up right on the street," said Robolias. He added that the 60 percent welfare will not be imposed on the gross salary of the one laid off from the public administration but on the base one, which excludes bonuses to the monthly salary. Ultimately, for most of the ones included the labor reserves will provide assistance for the unemployed between 400 and 500 Euros - an amount equal to unemployment benefits from the private sector. 

The Institute of Trade Unions insists that the applied in the past two years economic policy combines all the wrong actions in order to achieve financial recovery. The results of the measures in the Memorandum have only a negative impact rather than to improve macroeconomic framework of the country, leading to an increase in budget deficit, deteriorating working conditions and the deepening of the gaps in social security funds. In the middle of next week the Scientific Institute in GSEE will present a report on improved alternatives that the government can follow in order to rescue the Greek economy, which will include proposals related to improving employment and social policy. 

Unemployment 

Before the midst of the economic crisis, unemployment in Greece was moving around 9 percent. According to recent data from the National Institute of Statistics the current unemployment rate is 16.3 percent, and the prospects for the labor market remains gloomy. The Scientific Institute of the Syndicate of employees in the private sector predicts that by the end of 2011 this indicator will reach 17 -18 percent. Another problem occurs if one enters into a more analytical examination of the types of unemployed groups, because then it turns out that these figures are even higher than the ones officially reported. 

"The real unemployment rate is always around 5 percent higher than the statistical calculations," said Savas Robolias for GRReporter. The difference comes from the way in which the national statistical institute examines various categories of citizens of working age. The first difference is that people who have worked even for one month in the last year are not considered unemployed. Statistically, they are considered to be employed part-time or to have a temporary job. The second difference comes from the ones employed on a temporary contract, without social security, which until recently was a very popular practice in the Greek public sector. The National Statistical Institute reports them as employed, but economists in the union consider them as unemployed, because, although they receive a salary, their work experience is not recorded and therefore it does not count. The third difference is recorded in long-term unemployed people or those who have not worked for more than four years, despite being of a working age. This group of people is officially placed in the section of population unable to work, together with children and pensioners. The Scientific Institute, however, considers them as part of the mass unemployment. 

All these differences make a difference in the statistical calculation of the actual unemployment rate in Greece, which calculates at an average between 5 -6 percent. "If we consider that this year GDP decreased by 5 percent and if we predict that next year it will mark a further decline of about 2.5 percent more. According to these data, we expect unemployment rate to reach statistical 21 percent—in other words—in 2012 the real unemployment rate will reach 26 percent or even more than one million people," provides the scientific institute at one of the largest unions in Greece. 

In the overall gloomy picture of the Greek economy, in the country all are trying to retain their jobs and as a well-tested practice, adhere to the organized strikes and protests. At the same time, the government is trying to push through delayed reforms with dubious results, so it can receive the sixth dose of financial aid from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, and many political analysts estimate that early parliamentary elections will follow after that. Winter 2011 will be full of hardships, say citizens. 

Tags: Greece economy crisis unemployment layoffs
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