Toward a 13-hour workday

Capitalist slavery

The fast and furious Greek government has no limits in its pro-corporate agenda, with the latest in its long list of actions in that sense being the implementation of the 13-hour workday. The 8 hours established by law were already a thing of the past as Greek workers have been putting in 10 hours a day at work since 2021.

Daniel Gatti

20 | 09 | 2023

Image: Allan McDonald

Around the mid-aughts of the twenty-first century, some people referred to Greece as “the European Chile” because it had become a laboratory for ultra-neoliberal experimentation.

During those years, financial institutions and successive national governments (some conservative, some social democratic) subjected the inhabitants of this small country to treatments typically applied to Latin American countries. And they did so without anesthesia.

In just five years, unemployment increased threefold, destitution fourfold, 30 percent of the Greek population was left without healthcare, another 30 percent without housing, the country’s already weakened industries were dismantled, foreign debt shot up to almost double the GDP, and everything, down to the family jewelry and grandma’s trinkets, was privatized or cashed in. And wealth was concentrated like never before.

But perhaps they went too far, and civil society fought back hard, matching the actions of the governments and the “institutions”.

In 2015 Greece was also the stage of a battle that reached epic proportions, waged by a government, which emerged from a social movement and sought to break with the status quo, against the combined forces of economic, political, social, and financial power.
That battle was lost, the government capitulated completely, and in recent years the “forces of social regression and the purest capitalist obscurantism,” as the legendary social and political activist Manolis Glezos described them at the end of his almost centenary life, descended on Athens emboldened and ready to take over everything.


In 2021, while a post-pandemic Europe was discussing the possibility of reducing the workday, the conservative Greek government went in a completely opposite direction: it increased it from 8 to 10 hours, in the framework of a labor reform that severely limited the right to strike, established prison sentences for anyone involved in workplace occupations, and practically wiped out collective bargaining.

Now it has gone even further and employers will be allowed to impose workdays of up to 13 hours and work weeks of up to 78 hours without having to pay any overtime.

New Democracy, Greece’s ruling party, has an absolute majority in parliament, and its leaders could not care less about the street protests that are being organized by unions.

“We’re moving in the same direction as the rest of the world, it’s just that we’re moving faster than others,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. “Yes, toward capitalist slavery,” a union leader responded.