March 21, 2017
In Greece, which currently has over one million unemployed citizens, firms have started paying workers in kind, mainly with supermarket coupons.
According to the latest unemployment statistics for the EU member states, prepared by Eurostat, the youth unemployment rate in Greece had remained at around 50 percent in the years 2013 to 2015, and there are no indications the situation may improve in the near future.
In Greece, if one stays unemployed for 12 months or longer, he or she is no longer eligible for social security or the reimbursement of their health care costs, which forces people to agree to low-wage temporary or part-time jobs.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Labour, more than 22 percent of Greek workers are employed half-time or part-time and earn less than €400 (US $430) per month.
Apart from that, many of those who do manage to find jobs have to put up with receiving part of the salary in coupons, a practice that is becoming increasingly popular among Greek companies struggling to cope with rising payroll costs and social security.
GSEE, Greece’s largest umbrella trade union which represents about 1.8 million private sector employees, has warned that coupons, which don’t count towards a person’s social security and pension contributions, are throwing the country’s already damaged labor market into further chaos.
“Even if payment were being offered in bars of gold, this would all be terribly illegal,” said GSEE Secretary Dimitris Kalogeropoulos in a recent interview with DW.
“We have informed the Ministry of Labour and we hope they will take measures against this practice.”
Before the economic crisis, some firms issued employees with vouchers on top of salaries to reward them for outstanding performance at work. Treats included all-inclusive stays at holiday resorts and free theater tickets. But now, what many employees can count on is lackluster pay in kind vouchers for supermarket supplies as a substitute for money.
In another emerging and quite nasty trend, private security guards escort company employees to ATM machines at night, forcing them to withdraw and hand back to their employers as much as a third of their deposited pay, for a government decree forced companies to pay all employers’ salaries via bank transfers.
According to GSEE, in recent months it had received thousands of complaints centered on a group of telecommunications companies, security firms, cleaning and collection companies which operate across the country. Despite mounting complaints, no official investigation has yet been launched into the practices.