The European Commission presented its views on labour market reforms and labour relations in Greece in the Strasbourg plenary today.

Commissioner Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis detailed progress in Greece’s review of collective bargaining, collective dismissal and industrial action framework.

Greece had its comprehensive collective bargaining system suspended at the onset of the economic crisis in 2010. Under the August 2015 Memorandum of Understanding, its re-establishment is now dependent on the Troika.

GUE/NGL MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis expressed disappointment at the Council and Commission’s delay in approving collective bargaining rights for Greek workers: 

“Greece’s exemption from collective bargaining is shameful and unthinkable. Greeks are European citizens and they should be treated on an equal footing with other countries, not as second-class citizens.”

“There is no justification for the delay in completing the second review of the third economic adjustment programme for Greece. Out of the 80 prior actions, 77  have already been completed with one of the three outstanding being the reinstatement of collective bargaining.”

The Greek MEP questioned the Council and the Commission on the undue influence of the IMF in this process:

“How long are you going to carry on giving in to the IMF to the detriment of the Greek people and the Eurozone?”

“The Council and the Commission are obliged to implement EU law. It is unthinkable for a member of the Eurozone not to have collective bargaining agreements.”

“We are asking Bangladesh to establish such bargaining agreements in order to enter into a trade agreement with the EU yet you can’t justify doing the same for Greece?” Papadimoulis said.

Greek MEP Nikolaos Chountis called out on the hypocrisy of a ‘social Europe’ that denies collective bargaining rights to workers:

“We’ve been seeing this very tasteless theatre going on between the Prime Minister of Greece and the creditors, for the sake of remaining in the Eurozone and in the name of competition and competitiveness.”

“All Greek governments have deregulated the labour market and now this government is taking labour relations to the Middle Ages.”

“The Commission didn’t understand what the Memorandum of Understanding meant before and now ignores the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

“The European Parliament doesn´t officially condemn the violations of the social rights in Greece and no one has pointed that it is not permissible to have a country without collective bargaining,” he argued.  

For GUE/NGL MEP Sofia Sakorafa, the role of the European Parliament in sustaining the unbearable situation of Greek workers was particularly critical:

“We should be supporting the European Charter of Fundamental Rights while some in this chamber are voting against amendments that violate the charter. We are talking about the European acquis and we are amputating that acquis in the name of the market.”

Sakorafa went on to denounce the Commission’s experiment with Greece as a failure:

“Do you think you can convince us – with millions of unemployed, marginalised and poor people – that your experiment will succeed? Of course not. You got a plan and you don’t care about the consequences.”

“We see a rise of Nazism but you continue to support the causes that give rise to that. What we are seeing is a gradual erosion of a united Europe,” said Sakorafa. 

Finally, Greek MEP Kostadinka Kuneva called for the return of legality with regards to collective bargaining agreement:

“Going back to 2010, we got five new laws that have dismantled labour relations and abolished collective bargaining for the people on minimum wages.”

“The Commission and the Council must face the facts and commit themselves to reinstating collective bargaining in Greece. This is what the workers are asking for and the employers want.”

“Which side are you on, on the side of the IMF or on the side of the European acquis?”

“Complete the review with the Greek government unless you want to go back to slavery,” Kuneva concluded.

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