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Employers forced workers to return the Christmas bonus

Several employers found a “recipe” to fill their cash registers over the Christmas days: they demanded back the Christmas bonus they are obliged by law to pay to employees.

The employees’ complains landed at the unions offices one after the other.

In Patras, workers at retail shops, restaurants and cleaning services complained to the Union of Private Sector Employees that their bosses demanded the Christmas bonuses back.

Several complaints reached also unions in Larissa, Central Greece. The President of local Workers’ Center even claimed ” I wouldn’t exaggerate to say that in the catering sector phenomenon has reached 80 percent.”

Among others, “a big sweet shop chain claimed back the bonus threatening to fire those workers who would not comply,” he said adding that “unfortunately employers demand back also wages claiming economic hardship.”

The problem is that the employees cannot prove that they had to return the little extra as in the majority of cases they have to return the bonus in cash right after they withdrew it from the ATM.

Similar incidents have been reported from the island of Crete as well.

Supermarket chains have reportedly forced back the Christmas bonus and gave to employees a bag with food items instead.

It is not the first year that employers claim back the Christmas bonus which equivalent to a monthly wage.

Greece is times of economic crisis makes employers creative in a very negative way – no matter what the Labor Law dictates.

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  1. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    This is the reason why cash is a problem. When it is stolen from you, it is almost impossible to prove it. But the Greek obsession with cash seems relentless, despite the fact that employers have always stolen large amounts from their employees, demanding receipts before the worker is paid. Medieval approach to the economy…

  2. @MBE

    Cash allows for anonymity, which most people appreciate.

    It’s not enough to trot out the Orwellian phrase “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”, as governments like to do. That’s not the point. We have far too much state intrusion in our lives already, without handing them a detailed breakdown of exactly how much we spend and when and what we spend it on. People need some privacy in their life, and using cash makes a transaction private.

    Personally, if it wasn’t for the restrictive capital controls, I’d hardly ever use my card, preferring to withdraw from the ATM and paying cash.

  3. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    @nisakiman. Having had cash stolen from me (large amounts) through employer abuse of the cash system, I disagree with you 100%. Anonymity is most useful for criminals. As for alleged “state intrusion”, this is nothing compared with the spying and intrusion carried out by the private sector — companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft to mention just four. The State has an obligation to collect taxes to pay for state services: the issue is safeguarding what data they collect to make sure that they do not abuse it or hand it over to anyone else.

    You may not recall the time about 2006 when the entire tax register of Greece was handed over to banks (illegally) in order for them to send out prefilled credit card application forms, where they already knew your income tax details. This is the sort of abuse that should be prosecuted: not only was there no investigation, but no Greeks complained either.

    So, no, I am not sympathetic to your comment. If you don’t like the concept of a democratic state financed by taxation, go and live somewhere where there is not one. You will find that the alternatives are extremely nasty.

  4. I know that this also happens in volos. They need to wait 24 hours so that it can be registered that the deposit was made and then they give it back. These same persons also face extremely unpleasant working conditions without proper safety precautions to and gear. If they complain they are told “there’s the door “. I wish I could complain for them.

  5. @ mbe
    I know exactly what you mean about Google. My workplace has gone Google everything and the amount of information collected is scary.

    It’s for this reason I’m not on Facebook or fo i buy from Amazon. If i really need to I go incognito or use a nontracking website. Not that I have anything to hide or that I’m a conspiracy nut it’s just sometime “enough already!”

  6. Hecataeus Miletuss

    @MBE, If I may ask you sir, what about in cases where some men (I’ve heard) would like to buy gifts or take out their mistress for a nice dinner or cocktails? Using a credit card for these types of transactions would be highly risky and could cause problems. What would you advise in these tricky situations Mr. Martin?

  7. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    @Hecateus. Are you really suggesting that our entire system of consumer transactions be based on being able to hide transactions involving married men’s mistresses?! Anyway, two answers to it. First, I have no problem with small transactions being carried out in cash. In the UK now, the police do not investigate thefts involving less than 400 pounds – -which has led to a spate of petty shoplifting. But it seems reasonable that in Greece transactions for less than a certain amount (say 100 euros) could be in cash. Secondly, even in cashless societies it is possible to have multiple credit card accounts, which could be used to conceal purchases from one’s husband or wife. I don’t approve of this, though.

  8. Hecataeus Miletuss

    @mbe, OK, that sounds reasonable. I vote for you to set it up and implement it. I await your orders 🙂 🙂

  9. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    LOL@Hecateus. I regret to say that Greek governments don’t normally pay much attention to my advice — this one in particular… 🙂

  10. Greece finally stopped giving ridiculous high pensions to people not even old enough to retire (lazy people). Now I hear they get paid 13 months for 12 months work. Who designed all these laws, there must have been 50 years of government full of lazy arse people who wanted something for nothing. No national production, wealth or growth. 5000 years later only 15 million population and in debt up to the eyeballs.

  11. Hecataeus Miletuss

    @Big mark, don’t be so hard on the people. It’s not quite like that. Populism in the media does portray Greeks sometimes like that, but the reality is somewhere in the middle. There are plenty of hard working tax payers who have thier wages taxed, and even though they retire early, that was their system and to be honest, it gave them flexiibility to learn a new skill, get an advanced degree, or maybe spend more time with their kids. If we really think of what makes us human, having free time to do the things you truly want is best, and if that includes being a work-a-holic, then those people should also be allowed to. By contrast, in the USA, Americans are allowed to get their Social Security Pension (IKA) pension at “62”, where Greeks certainly have to get it much later. And in closing, I will say that I understand your frustration, because many Greeks would agree with you too, but there are many others who believe we have to work to make it equitable for all. Happy New Year to you!

  12. @big mark
    the 13th month was actually wages that are withheld from their pay like other payroll deductions (or at least it was supposed to be). Part time workers in Ontario have 4% vacation pay given to them every paycheque. It’s one of the deductions they get back.

  13. As I am reading these comments I am surprised that nobody among you gives a damn about the poor employees who work under slavery conditions on 300 euros a month and still have to give back a part of their salary! Nobody wonders why this is happening and why this was unheard of before the Troika era.

  14. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    @Iannis. It is not correct to say that this was unheard of before the Troika era. It was common practice before 2010 for employers to insist that their employees were self-employed, to cheat them of their correct wages (by means of the receipt demanded before cash payment), and numerous other tricks. The situation is now far worse, of course: but essentially the Greek capitalist class/ruling elite has always screwed the Greek people.

    The same situation exists with pensions. The basic pension schemes (TEBE and IKA) took high deductions from income, and gave poor healthcare services and even worse pensions. Some of that discrepancy is caught up in corruption (politicians and bureaucrats stealing from the funds, especially in the case of IKA), some of it is caught up in employer fraud (big businesses never paying IKA and escaping prosecution influence) and some of it is caught up in the weak condition of the labour market and self-employed people having irregular income and unable to pay many years of contributions.

    Ao, although I condemn fully the behaviour of the Troika, the situation prior to their intervention was very bad. It favoured the rich (usually Pasok and ND members) and left the poor struggling to make ends meet, and often doing so by not paying the taxes demanded of them. This is something that the arch-moron Jeffrey Papandreou and his American friends fail to comprehend: that the full payment of taxes demanded by the Greek state was too onerous for the average workers, and unacceptable to the high income earners. If you recall, he spent his first week as prime minister complaining that Greeks didn’t pay their taxes… A serious and intelligent person would have already known and understood why that was the case, and said nothing in public except concerning the high income earners. In my view, he is the leading cause of Greece’s current problems.

  15. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    Postcript. I did not comment on those with extremely high pensions, and the pension funds that pay them. There are two types of problem. One is that for state employees, who have a special pension fund. The judges belong to this and have “ruled” in the Council of State that it cannot be touched (to protect their own pensions, of course). The second consists of numerous (at one point, about 400) small pension schemes set up with the approval of political parties in order to provide high pensions paid from taxation subsidies. The latter (if not the former) is explicitly political corruption, whereby specific pension funds received taxpayers’ money because they concocted some dirty deals with politicians in ND and Pasok.

    The Troika is well aware of these problems, and much of the current pension reduction is linked with the corruption of the past. It is my experience that most Greeks do not realise that so much of their pension system was based on fraud and embezzlement; and those funds that were not, because they were so large and impossible to give artificially high pensions (IKA and TEBE) merely had money stolen from them, which then also had to be made up by transfers from taxation receipts.

    So, what the Troika has tried to do is “normalise” the pension system. This including removing all the corrupt small pension schemes and putting them into the normal schemes; it also means cutting pensions drastically to match current payments into the system. Given the dire straits that the Greek economy has been in, for the last 7 years, these are very low. In my view, the “normalization” of pension schemes should have been done with the proviso that subsidies are needed from general taxation, in order to give Greek people a modest income in old age. Instead, the Troika has followed neoliberal principles and allowed the rich to take high pensions and the poor to take ***k all.

  16. Dear Martin
    I don’t disagree with you; it is just that we should all be aware of the fact that the Troika did not come here to fix what is wrong, but to make it worse and to strip the assets of the country and its people. To this crime many willing souls corroborated: Jeffrey the useful idiot, Georgiou the IMF agent, Papademos the ECB agent, Samaras the subservient liar, and finally Alex, the imposter, to name just the leaders. In my view they all belong to prison for national treason and crimes against the Constitution. Now taxes are designed to be unaffordable. The objective is not to collect revenue but to strip private property, starting from the poorest – they are the first ones to become indebted with taxes and exorbitant fines and therefore see their assets confiscated.
    Overall, we have an occupied country with no law-making capability, no constitution, no working democratic processes, run and looted by successive Quisling governments.

  17. Now that I read this article in its entirety I know what the problem is. It’s big government dictating salaries. If government would just get out of the way and let businesses run as the market dictates then there would be fewer problems among bosses, employees and customers. A recent example of government screwing everybody is the recent plastic bag charge. Greece needs to get out of the European Union, regain its sovereignty and form a more Libertarian society in order to prosper.

  18. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    @JMM. In my opinion, leaving the EU and following a “libertarian” approach is guaranteed to reduce wages and living standards even further for the majority of Greeks, and would benefit a few — essentially, the very rich, foreign investors and Greek political parties. It would take Greece back to the 1930s, in very many aspects.

    Anyway, the Greek government does not dictate salaries. It sets a minimum wage (which is very low) and the law (derived from Greek religious nonsense) awards extra months’ salaries for Christmas and Easter (only for permanent employees, of course). Moreover, the private sector and para-state sector have set maximum pay to such low levels that they are the same as Nigeria for professorial and equivalent level and about half the rate for Turkey and Italy. This did not come from government initiatives, as far as I know.

  19. Sorry but there is no Christmas bonus in Greece 4 years now…. Get real!