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Greece Gets Tough on Employee Rights Violations Ahead of Tourism Season

Special units from Greece’s Labor Inspection Body (SEPE) will be carrying out heightened checks at hotels to ensure that labor laws and security regulations are being implemented as part of a joint action plan launched by the tourism and labor ministries this month.

“This issue has to do with both employee rights but also with the image of Greece. Images that reflect workers not being treated properly have a negative impact on both the enterprises and the country,” said Labor Minister Kostis Hatzidakis during a meeting with Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, Secretary General for Tourism Policy, Olympia Anastasopoulou, and representatives from the Panhellenic Federation of Catering and Tourist Industry Employees (POEET) and the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE).

The ministers stressed that penalties will be strict in cases of violations. 

In the meantime, actions are being taken to cover extensive staff shortages at tourism-related businesses which appear to be the result of poor working conditions as cited by POEET president last month. There are currently some 50,000 jobs still open ahead of the tourism season launch. 

Hatzidakis said it was a government priority to ensure collective labor agreements were being applied at operations mainly in the food and beverages sector and that talks were underway to make these agreements mandatory as is the case in the accommodation sector.

“This will serve as a positive message for workers, a message of justice,” he said, calling on all stakeholders to be cooperative.

To address the issue, the government announced last week that it was accelerating efforts to address the shortages in tourism by inviting sector businesses to declare open positions for the June-August period until May 31 to the Public Employment Service (DYPA), which will in turn recommend qualified individuals from its ranks by June 15.  Earlier this year, the government had announced that it would open 50,000 jobs in tourism to Greek expatriates or to Ukrainian refugees.

The people working in tourism are our ambassadors, said Kikilias, adding that  “the first booking and arrivals figures are encouraging. We are therefore called on to defend but also strengthen the ‘locomotive’ of the Greek economy in the best possible way, defending the interests of both employees and companies in the industry”.

A study released in March by INSETE, the Greek Tourism Confederation’s (SETE) research body found that tourism and hospitality businesses in Greece were unable find employees to meet the demands of the tourism season in 2021. Citing Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) and Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) research, 22 percent  – or one in five positions at hotel businesses were vacant in 2021. 

During the peak of the summer last year across the country, 53,249 jobs remained vacant out of a total of 244,124 jobs available. More than half of the unfilled positions concerned waiters and waitresses, receptionists, assistant waiters, laundry, baristas and technical support, and maintenance, with the highest demand for housekeeping.

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About the Author
Chicago-born and raised, Maria Paravantes has over two decades of journalistic experience covering tourism and travel, gastronomy, arts, music and culture, economy and finance, politics, health and social issues for international press and media. She has worked for Reuters, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, Billboard Magazine, Time Out Athens, the Athens News, Odyssey Magazine and SETimes.com, among others. She has also served as Special Advisor to Greece’s minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the mayor of Athens on international press and media issues. Maria is currently a reporter, content and features writer for GTP Headlines.

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