As a controversial labor market liberalization allowing a six-day work week in certain sectors in Greece continues to generate reverberations around the world, along with the expected opprobrium by the political opposition, it was the government spokesman’s turn over the weekend to line-up behind the legislation, following a handful of ministers of the conservative government’s Cabinet.

Taking to his Facebook account, spokesman Pavlos Marinakis answered 10 questions regarding the measure, in a bid to clarify and more fully detail who will face a six-day week in the country, as well as to deflect criticism by opposition parties and speculation “swirling” in social media. In fact, he opined that the measure doesn’t curtail wage-earners’ rights, but “safeguards the protection of labor rights.” Legislation allowing the six-day work work came into force on July 1, earlier this month.

It wasn’t clear who tabled the questions.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis.

Specifically, he writes, in a Q&A format:

  1. Has the five-day work week and the 40-hour week been abolished in Greece as of July 1?

Of course not. In any case, it’s employees who are the first to ascertain that nothing has changed regarding their working hours and days.

  1. Then what exactly is this measure, and who’s affected by the possibility of an extra day of work?

This is a measure that only concerns businesses that operate continuously, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. In other words, it concerns a small number of companies, mainly industries with uninterrupted operation. By exception it can be applied to businesses that operate 24 hours a day over five or six days a week, but only in case of an increased workload and after (the business) first submits a relevant declaration to the Ergani system (a labor ministry online platform).

  1. So, conditions for wage-earners in shops, supermarkets, offices, banks or service (sectors) do not change?

No, there is no change. Workers, new ones or older hires, in retail stores, services, super markets, offices etc., are not affected in the least bit.

  1. So, the five-day labor system is not abolished?

No. The measure in no way means the abolition of the five-day work system. It’s a special condition for a specific and limited category of businesses to deal with an emergency that must be covered by specialized personnel.

  1. Are you aware of collective bargaining agreements between employees and employers that enable very specific industries with special characteristics, such as catering, tourism etc., to expand the entrenched work week of 40 hours in five days with an additional sixth day?

This is true. Workers in certain sectors have agreed with employers, through collective labor agreements, that they can work a sixth day, with an increased daily wage scale. The reason this has occurred is the particular conditions of a provided service, such as in the case of catering and tourism.

  1. Could this new measure expand this prospect, of a six-day work week, to the entire labor market?

No! The new measure in no way concerns the entire labor market. All it does is provide the possibility, under very specific conditions, for an exception to allow for an extraordinary extra day. We repeat, it only concerns:

  • Businesses that operate 24/7, such as factories with rolling shifts.
  • Businesses that operate five or six days on a 24-hour basis with rolling shifts.

In fact, businesses in the second category, before making use of the extra work day, are obliged to declare their extra workload to the Ergani system. Any employer who chooses to use the extra day must pay a higher daily wage (to the wage-earner), increased by 40% if it’s a Saturday and 115% if it’s a Sunday or holiday. The cross-checking of the data within Ergani and the checks by workplace inspectors (of the Hellenic Labour Inspectorate, an independent authority) are conducted to deal with any abuse or illegal use of the measure.

  1. Yes, but we’re again seeing the expansion, even on a limited basis, of the six-day work in other sectors.

This is not the case. The new measure is not a six-day work week, it’s an extra day of work applied under very specific conditions and only in case of an extraordinary occasion, and for very specific businesses. Even so, there may be 24-hour businesses that operate on rolling shifts that, despite the fact that they now have the option of an extra work day, will never use it. All that this measure does is to remedy the problem of widespread undeclared (off-the-books) work that affects workers’ rights and incomes.

  1. However, in other countries the four-day work week is starting to be implemented, while in Greece we’re regressing.

The opposite is occurring. Greece is one of the first countries to have implemented a four-day work week with the “Jobs Again” law, precisely because we want a labor market that provides security as well as flexibility to the employee.

  1. Are there safeguards for the workers?

With the digital work card established by this government – a standing request of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) – which is now implemented throughout the economy, the rights of workers against unpaid overtime are protected. Ergani’s figures show a significant increase in reported overtime and, therefore, higher incomes for workers who already use a digital card.

  1. What will happen with collective bargaining (labor) agreements? Will they increase or decrease?

The government believes in the value and usefulness of collective bargaining agreements, because they protect and regulate the rights of workers and the obligations of employers. In recent years, collective labor agreements have increased, and today there are 429 such agreements in force.