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Business ethics examine the ethical, moral and principle problems that occur in a business environment, and its application applies to all aspects of a business, which include strategy implementation, policy formulation, organizational culture and legal proceedings, just to mention a few. Business decisions are best explained by the use of ethical frameworks, which include; the utilitarian rule, social justice, deontology and ethics of virtues.
The task in the presentation is to research working conditions in Greece and then figure out which ethical framework is being used by the leaders of that country in that issue. A careful analysis of the matter indicates that the leaders employ the utilitarian framework, which states that given two or more choices to choose from, a person must choose the one that yields maximum benefits to the largest number of people (Windelband et.al, 1958). In other words, if a given choice is going to benefit a small number of people, it is of great importance.
John Stuart Mill modified the law of utilitarianism and came up with a new utilitarian rule which stated that, one determines what is right by contrasting the outcome of all related agents of alternative policy for a particular condition (Quinton, 1973).
Issue: Greece Working Conditions
To understand the working conditions, data from the Institute of Employment is used. The data was provided by the Social Insurance Foundation and Labor Inspectors in Greece. This institute carried out a research in the year 2003. The objective of the research was to investigate the health and safety legislations in Greece. Questionnaires handed out to 324 people of various specialties. 35.8 percent specified that there were no health and safety provisions in the firm and 48.7% stated that, to their knowledge, there was no physician assigned to the firm. A small percentage acknowledges the being of a health and safety committee in their firm was only 32.4%. In the construction sector, 53.5% had a health and safety provision document while 58.9% in the manufacturing sector had the same. 66.1% of the respondents in the public sector said they lacked such a document (Aizenman, 2012).
According to (Bentham 1948), it is right to exercise what is good for the largest population of people. The study reveals that the greatest number of people in the work environment had the health and safety document. Companies in Greece seem to value policies that yield the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. However, James Rachel, critic of the utilitarian rule, would have argued otherwise. In his criticisms, he points out that, everyone is equal and that everybody’s happiness is important (Rachel, 1986). The group of people who lack the document in this case can claim that businesses in Greece did violate the business ethics. This indeed violates utilitarian moral framework.
‘’One issue in particular is already in danger of being subject to all kinds of populist rhetoric rather than objective assessment: free movement of people in general and of workers in particular, in the European Union’’, says President Boroso while addressing the European crisis, which pioneered numerous reforms in Greece labor laws. The reforms led to limited protection of workers in the labor market. This aspect violated business ethics and essential social rights. Law number 3863/2010 introduced fundamental changes in the labor market.
The major areas changed included:
- The period given as a notice to the termination of white-collar workers significantly shortened. The golden handshake for white-collar workers reduced by a half due to the reforms made.
- Operational costs must be kept between 5% and 10%. The minimum wage rates for workers under the age of 25 years reduced to 84% of the set minimum wage. For underage workers, the minimum wage rate set at 70% of the set minimum wage (Lynn, 2011).
According to (Bentham, 1948) these changes cannot yield maximum benefits to the society because they only cater for a few individuals. In fact, are in contrast with the labor minister, Algimanta Pabedinskiene, utterances, and I quote, ‘‘Tackling NEET problems will require a variety of measures facilitating the transition of these young people into the world of employment, or their return to the education system. In applying these measures, a special focus should be placed on vulnerable groups’’.
The law set by the government aimed at protecting the community from mass unemployment by making the labor laws weak, but by doing so, individual interests were not considered. According to (Allison, 1990) a rational individual wants to make more money from their employment, and the same individual does not want to work in conditions, which make him/her feel underpaid. This is to say that the government is doing more harm than good by introducing weak labor laws. However, the government encourages underage working, which is a way of depriving minors their rights. This is not in line with the utilitarianism because it violates the ethics (Thilly, 1957).
Apart from the labor market reforms, the government instituted in 2010, service cuts in pension and other important reforms in the social security regulations (Pryce 2012). The key points to note are as follows:
- Zero increase in the current pension over the next 3 years
- For the uninsured persons over the age of 65, their basic pension criteria underwent reforms. The amount of the pension is set at €360. The national budget will finance the pension from the year 2018.
- With respect to minimum wages, the reduction of salaries in now fully permitted for all workers who are receiving the minimum wage rate in the country. This is now possible after an agreement in the National General Collective Agreement (NGCA). Signing of the agreement on 15 July 2010 was by the social partners. This agreement validation was to be effected after three years (Feldstein, 2011).
- Salary cut for employees between 25 years was set between 22% and 32%. The employer can impose this cut without the consent of the employee.
These reforms further show how the government violates utilitarian principle. A salary cut without the consent of employees is unethical, and violates utilitarian rule. According to (Goodin, 1995), utilitarianism as a public philosophy has been broken. Goodin explains utilitarianism as a principle which should guide political leaders while making decisions that affect the society at large. He points out that leaders must take into account the impacts of the policies they pass on the entire society, other than focusing on a small group of people. In addition, (Copleston, 1975) states that people’s decisions and rights must be respected whenever the government passes policies that has direct impacts on citizen’s welfare. He further states that failure to exercise this, the government will be infringing citizen’s rights, which is unethical.
The government and companies in Greece tend to pass laws and policies in line with the utilitarian framework, but there are many instances where the leaders go contrary to the principles of the framework. Using quotes and criticisms of the law and data collected, it is evident that there exists infringement of the utilitarian rule. The Government of Greece ought to use this analysis to rewrite its policies. It is ironical that the government wants zero unemployment while it continues to pass laws and regulations that do not yield greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. The happiness of citizens and their rights must be respected if the government aims at reducing unemployment.
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