ATHENS, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of civil servants and private sector workers across Greece walked off their jobs on Thursday to join rallies in protest of a labor bill submitted to Parliament by the government.
The public sector umbrella union ADEDY and other labor unions called for the 24-hour strike, demanding the bill's withdrawal. In their press releases, they argued that it undermines workers' basic rights.
However, according to the government, it will help tackle the problem of undeclared labor and will allow workers to increase their income.
Among other provisions, the bill sets the conditions for full-time employees to get a second job as long as the total daily working hours do not exceed 13 hours. It stipulates strict fines for employers who fail to properly declare employees' working hours.
Furthermore, it sets conditions for a 6-day working week and foresees fines for strikers who obstruct other employees at work.
This is the first major labor mobilization of this autumn since the conservatives were reelected to office in summer and secured parliamentary majority.
Yannis Roupas, member of the board of directors of the Teachers' Federation of Greece, was among protestors on Syntagma square in front of the country's Parliament.
"If this bill passes, we lose for good our right to live with a salary in dignity, rights that have been won by the labor movement for over 100 years," he told Xinhua.
"I am here, because all together, workers, pensioners, the unemployed must stand up against government policies that constantly lead us to poverty," pensioner Katerina Malakou said.
Seasonal contracted firefighters formed a large group a few steps further. Their main request is to be eventually hired as full-time personnel throughout the year rather than merely during the "summer period."
The country needs firefighters for more than six months, said Giorgos Draganakis, vice-president of the Panhellenic Association of Contract Firefighters, stressing that the state should not turn its back on seasonal firefighters who help in massive wildfires and floods.
"We live with a wage for six months, then we receive unemployment benefits for three months, and we are struggling with no income at all for the other three months," he said.