Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Coronavirus in Greece: The government must take protection measures for all workers

Addressing the issue of public health due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), PAME and Workers’ Unions have urged the government to take immediate measures of protection. 

In a statement today the General Secretary of the KKE Dimitris Koutsoumbas said that, additionally to the advise provided by the National Organization of Public Health (EODY), the government must take measures which will ensure the protection of public health and the workers’ rights. 

Among other things, Koutsoumbas underlined the need for the recruitment of permanent medical and nursing staff so that all Primary Health units will be able to function 24 hours per day, thus relieving congestion in hospitals. He added that the state must provide, free of charge, full disifection equipment to public services. 

In relation to the workers’ rights, the KKE General Secretary said that the government must provide additional, full pay and insurance leaves for the working people who are sick, or need to stay at home due to emergency protection measures (including those who must take care of sick children or elderly relative). 

Dimitris Koutsoumbas added that all auctions of primary residence, as well as the disruptions in electricity and water supply to over-indebted households, must be stopped immediately. He said that the overall cost must be assumed by the state and the various big business groups, not the working and self-employed people. 

The KKE also submitted a question in the Parliament, demanding from the government to provide additional full pay and insurance leaves for the working men and women who are sick or need to stay away from their jobs due to protection measures.

Many unions have condemned the tactics of employers who use this development with sole criterion their profits. Eg the supermarket-commerce sector, taking advantage of the climate of fear and public concern, has intensified the attack on thousands of workers in their stores and warehouses. There are numerous complaints about employers, who have canceled workers’ leaves and reps, impose a 10-hour to 14-hour work day and are pressing the workers to go to work at the warehouses even on Sunday. On the other hand they take no measures for the protection of the workers’ health.

The Unions demand:
  • Support and strengthening of Healthacare infrastructure, especially as there are huge examples of undrerstaffed hospitals and services.
  • To make available to the population free of charge and under the sole responsibility of the State all appropriate protective materials (masks, soaps, alcoholic antiseptics, etc.).
  • It is the responsibility of the employer to provide the necessary precautionary materials, to obtain full pay and insurance leave, especially for those workers who are ill, in order to recover and limit the risk of spreading the disease.

At the same time, many unions and PAME central offices have received complaints from workers and employees, especially in areas where the problem of coronavirus is noted and there was closure of schools. Many employers:

1. They refuse to give days of so workers can keep their children at home
2. When they give leave days they refuse to pay them
3. Or these days are cut from the worker’s annual vacation days
4. Or some employers “offer” as alternative to work from home (eg Piraeus Bank etc)

In the face of this unacceptable situation, PAME Executive Secretariat demands that the Ministry of Labor now take action. The Ministry must announce that the employees in areas where schools are closed, they are allowed to take extra paid-leave from their work for as many days as required.