Greek Parliament: Debate on Supporting Employees and Vulnerable Social Groups

November 25, 2020

ATHENS — The Labour Ministry's bill "Measures to strengthen workers and vulnerable social groups, social security regulations and provisions for the support of the unemployed" is to be presented to the parliament plenary on Wednesday, November 25, and is expected to be voted on later in the day.

The reduction of social insurance contributions was at the centre of the controversy between the government and the opposition during the process of debating its provisions in the Social Affairs Committee of the Parliament.

The majority, however, underlined that the legislative initiative of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is an initiative for a "welfare state" in the difficult conditions of the coronavirus and that a bill is being passed for the most vulnerable social groups.

PM Mitsotakis: Despite the difficulties, the government is keeping its promises

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday urged lawmakers to back the labour ministry bill for supporting workers and vulnerable social groups, describing it as an "important bill" that "adds another package οf measures" to the assistance for households and businesses, while supporting employment by reducing social insurance contributions.

Mitsotakis was addressing Parliament during the debate in the plenary on the bill "Measures to support workers and vulnerable social groups, social security regulations and provisions to support the unemployed".

"Despite the many difficulties, despite the extremely problematic situation, the government is upholding its contract with the citizens. It is keeping its promises," Mitsotakis stressed, and referred to the presentation of the Development and Resilience Plan that took place a few hours ago.

"The alternate finance minister made the first presentation of the National Plan for Recovery and Resilience, a draft of which has already been sent to the European Union. As I promised, shortly before the final plan is submitted to the European Commission, it will also come to parliament to be discussed at the level of party leaders," he added.

The Prime Minister noted that "citizens should be gradually relieved of burdens and at the same time employment should be strengthened. A key element in the bill, which will soon be state law, is the new de-escalation of insurance contributions." "We know," Mitsotakis said, from all international surveys, "that the non-wage cost in our country remains disproportionately high, encouraging the informal economy, discouraging investment, encouraging tax evasion." "(The bill) benefits almost two million employees," the prime minister stressed.

"It means an annual profit of 228 euros for the employee with a salary of 1,000 euros. And 456 euros for someone with a salary of 2,000 euros. The scale and benefits for businesses are similar. It is an extremely important intervention for salaried employment, which was particularly hard hit during the pandemic," he said. The premier also noted its "favourable provisions" for the labour sector and production in a time of pandemic: "Let me outline some of the important ones. The self-employed and employers can settle debts to the insurance funds in 24 installments.

The same goes for those who did not manage to benefit from extensions of recent months. For December, the minimum guaranteed income for the almost 500,000 beneficiaries is doubled. The measure includes, for the first time, homeless people and women, the women victims of violence currently living in hostels. The bill to be voted on today is symbolic."

"The minimum guaranteed income is now constitutionally guaranteed," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed and added: "It is a mechanism of support for our weakest fellow citizens. It was instituted by the government of New Democracy. It was subsequently reinforced by the SYRIZA government. It was constitutionally ratified on the initiative of New Democracy and now, at a difficult time, the government is doubling the allowance they will receive in December," he stressed.

"These are measures that have an ideological stamp, but also mirror the way in which we perceive the exercise of the government's work," Mitsotakis said. "As the private and public sector cooperated for the common good during the first wave of the pandemic, so in the second wave of the pandemic the sectors of production and labour must meet. It is politically and socially just, inspired by a national perspective, it looks at the overall good of society, without discrimination, without exclusions. We will come out of this crisis standing up, but above all we must come out united."

Gennimata: We need a different model for reopening with safety

Opposition Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Fofi Gennimata on Wednesday called for a "different model" for safely reopening the economy, one which "takes into account the real picture of every region's epidemiological map and does not impose general and horizontal measures that are imposed everywhere." She also emphasised that the anticipation of a vaccine "must not inactivate us."

Given that the virus will probably continue arriving in waves, based on the scientific data, Gennimata warned of a real danger "of the country opening and closing with horizontal measures over the next months" with all the negative repercussions this entailed.

She instead proposed a series of mandatory measures applying throughout the country including the mandatory use of face masks everywhere, a nationwide curfew between 24:00 to 05:00 and retaining present levels of teleworking. Secondly, in area with a heavy epidemiological burden, she called for stricter measures and effective surveillance, with a restriction of movements to and from areas with high infection rates.

In other areas, Gennimata also urged large-scale baseline testing to more precisely estimate the epidemiological burden in each region and, using the data from an efficient track and trace process, to gradually and safely reopen regions with low infection rates, while repeating mass testing every 20 days to re-evaluate the epidemiological data.

KINAL's leader also called for the regular testing of staff in all health and welfare facilities, including retirement homes and facilities hosting migrants and refugees, as well as teachers, police officers and those working on the front line, and especially the vulnerable groups.

"If we finally move quickly and in an organised way, entire regions will soon be able to gradually recover their economic operation with health safety and the entire country can get a head start on the virus," she said.

Tsipras: Government seems 'to have lost touch with reality'

"The situation is out of control and you give the impression of being in a tail spin, of having completely lost touch with reality," main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday in parliament. Tsipras was replying to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during the debate before the plenary on a labour ministry bill on measures to support workers, businesses, vulnerable social groups and the unemployed.

Tsipras began his speech by referring to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, noting that incidents of domestic violence had skyrocketed worldwide during the lockdowns. Additionally, he pointed out that the networks and emergency phone lines to support abused women were the work of the previous SYRIZA government.

"We are not asking you to become a Messiah or Moses, nor a St. George to slay the virus. We are asking you not to assassinate common sense or to consider that you and your ministers are talking to cretins," Tsipras said.



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