Trade unions on Monday fired a warning shot, saying they’d fight back against any attempt by employers to cut salaries or dilute work-related benefits once the government’s special support schemes for Covid-19 lapse.
The comments came after a meeting of the SEK, PEO and Deok syndicates with the ministers of labour and finance. The meeting’s aim was to look ahead at the labour market situation once the special relief schemes expire, in October.
Andreas Matsas, head of SEK, said that recovery and growth could return quickly unless there were a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
He harangued employers organisations for seeking to reduce wages and benefits under the “pretext” – as he put it – of not having to fire people.
The union leader said businesses have secured substantial government support during the coronavirus situation, and it was their turn to give something back.
Employers can and should make the most of new trends – such as working from home – rather than try to modify workers’ contracts under the slogan of “work flexibility”.
For his part, head of the PEO union Pambis Kiritsis said employers’ recent comments on slashing wages “provoke public sentiment”.
And he warned that trade unions will “react decisively to any attempt at shifting the burden of this crisis onto workers and salaries”.
Noting that there is still currently in force a moratorium on sackings for those businesses who made use of the government support schemes, Kiritsis said that even once the moratorium ends the labour ministry must make it difficult on employers to tamper with wages and benefits.
The ministers of labour and finance will on Tuesday be meeting with employers’ organisations.
Back in July, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou voiced concern over a coming spike in joblessness come October once the current Covid-19 relief comes to end.
State subsidies to cover part of employees’ wages in distressed businesses are due to expire in October and there are concerns that employers will begin a wave of firings then.
Speaking in parliament then, Emilianidou had said it was “unacceptable” that businesses should sack people once subsidies dried up.
In a bid to avert a sudden surge in unemployment, the labour ministry was planning to issue a circular prohibiting businesses who benefited from the relief schemes to issue dismissal notices to employees until the end of October.
Such notices would only be allowed to be issued after November 1. Taking into account that the notice is issued four to five weeks prior to the dismissal taking effect, any actual firings would occur later on, in December.
Government data show the labour ministry’s total expenditures in the first half of the year amounted to €814 million, by far the highest expenditures in the state budget during this period.
Compared to the corresponding period of 2019, expenditures increased by €306 million or 60 per cent, reflecting the increased cost of paying out for support measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Meantime also on Monday, the labour ministry announced that September 4 is the deadline for filing online applications for participating in special schemes for the period August 1 to August 31.
Applications may be filed until midnight of September 4. No late applications will be accepted.