ATHENS – Facing a shortage of at least 55,000 workers at tourist venues as foreign visitors are returning in droves despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Greece’s New Democracy government is being asked to lift a prohibition on pensioners from working and to also allow teachers during the summer to fill the gap.
The pandemic essentially closed down tourism for two years, limiting the numbers of arrivals, and created huge shortages among staff like cooks, cleaners and others who haven’t returned because of low wages and poor working conditions.
Some tourism workers on the island of Mykonos, known for tax evasion and scamming tourists with gouging prices, have reportedly had to sleep in their cars and the sector is having trouble luring more because it won’t pay well.
Workers who left tourism, which at its peak has employed nearly a million people in the country, took jobs in other businesses, such as commerce or couriers or permanent positions instead of seasonal.
There are so few workers that it’s creating problems for restaurants, taverns hotels and other businesses relying on them, leading the Confederation of Greek Tourism Accommodation Entrepreneurs (SETKE) to seek help.
They sent a letter to the ministers of labor and finance asking for the retirees and teachers to be allowed to work during the summer months without affecing their pensions, said Kathimerini.
Greece doesn’t allow people who retire to work without risking their benefits, a practice said to be put in place so as not to deprive younger people from finding jobs although some retirees work for cash under the table.
SETKE said despite offering tourism workers a pittance of a 3 percent salary increase that they aren’t biting and are shunning the sector in huge numbers, tired as well of long days on their feet.
The group said there would be another 4 percent increase to low wages in 2023 but that “These have not paid off and this problem remains unresolved,” workers relying on tips as the businesses pay them so little.
The SETKE statement said that there “intense interest in work both from retirees who have the ability (physical and mental) to work, and from teachers who either do not work during the summer months or want to have parallel employment.”
The group proposed to the Labor Ministry to provide “incentives for the filling of jobs by the abovementioned social groups at least for this year’s tourism season with immediate legislative effect and until a final solution is found.”
They asked that pensioners who work not lose 30 percent of their benefits for doing so, which would wipe out what they make on the job and that teachers should be able to work in the sector in the summer too.
In May, there was a warning from the Greek Tourism Confederation (INSETE) about what would happen as the government was pushing hard for tourists and opening the season early, with Greece a 2022 hot spot.
The group said despite that and any incentives being offered that 22 percent of positions in the tourism sector which could have a backlash effect although it wasn’t said if the problem exits for 5-star hotels and luxury resorts.
Hellenic Hoteliers Federation President Grigoris Tasios noted that many seasonal workers, mainly aged 25-35, have sought work in other sectors that can guarantee year-round work and a five-day weekly schedule, the paper reported then.
Hellenic Chamber of Hotels Vice President Christina Tetradi said many tourism workers in cleaning and restaurants at hotels switched to higher-paying jobs without insurance in the short-term rental sector like AirBnb.
“A villa rented for 1,000 euros ($1061.63) a day can provide daily wages of 100 euros ($106.16) per person. At the same time, for example, a hotel that pays an employee 40 euros ($42.47) a day also pays 30 euros ($318.5) for the worker’s insurance and other deductions,” she said.
Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association Secretary General Evgenios Vassilikos said that “you can’t find a chef in the job market, even if you look for one, leaving restaurants with a problem they’re hungry to fix.