Greek gov't pledges to improve workers' life as unions march for Labor Day

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-01 22:25:21|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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Workers march during a rally marking the Labor Day in Thessaloniki, Greece, May 1, 2019. The Greek government pledged to implement measures to improve workers' life after nine years of financial crisis, as labor unions staged Labor Day rallies on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Dimitris Tosidis)

ATHENS, May 1 (Xinhua) -- The Greek government pledged to implement measures to improve workers' life after nine years of financial crisis, as labor unions staged Labor Day rallies on Wednesday.

"May 1st is a day of memory, struggle and claim for the working class all over the world... It is our government's duty to be next to the workers and that is why we are taking measures to strengthen their rights, to improve their income and their negotiating position," Minister of Labor Effie Achtsioglou told Greek state news agency AMNA.

For example, the planned 120-installment debt settlement to social security funds will provide relief to 1.3 million Greeks, said the official.

Meanwhile, labor unions, parties and grassroots movements organized symbolic demonstrations in the center of Athens and other cities across the country demanding bolder policies to heal the wounds of the crisis.

Although unemployment rates now stand at about 18 percent, down from 28 percent at the peak of the crisis, the average household in Greece has seen its income slashed by 30 percent and savings evaporating.

Labor unions have protested that workers' rights have also suffered in recent years as some employers exploited their agony for a job position.

"May 1st is a day of honor and commemoration of the dead of the working class in Chicago in 1886 and in Thessaloniki in 1936," Thanassis Koutsouras, president of the Federation of Construction Workers in the northern city port of Thessaloniki, told Xinhua during the rally.

The Labor Day march in Thessaloniki ended on the site where the first worker was fatally injured by police 83 years ago. Nine people lost their lives during the workers' strike in the city of Thessaloniki in 1936.

"The working class gave blood to win 8 hours of work. After so many years, the working class is still in the same dire position due to policies implemented by all governments which are against workers' rights," Koutsouras added.

"We are here to support the workers' movement. We are struggling for peace without exploitation, against imperialism, the system that causes wars," Nikos Zokas, head of the Greek Committee for International Detente and Peace in Thessaloniki, told Xinhua.

"The message is for workers to rise up," said Nikos, another protestor.

Gevsi Kakoulidou, was also among demonstrators on Wednesday. She is a low paid cleaning lady. Her children are also earning barely enough to make ends meet.

"The working class is wounded and still in fear. We should all be here fighting today... My colleagues are signing that they get Easter and Christmas bonuses and their employers do not give it. The employees are just signing the documents so that they will not lose their jobs the next day," she said.

Labor unions have received numerous complaints in recent years that part-time employees in many cases are forced to work overtime without extra payment, and full-time employees are obliged to sign receipts of payment for bonuses they never actually receive, under the threat of dismissal.

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