Bargaining begins over new national collective labour agreement

On 30 January 2008, representatives of trade unions and employers held a first meeting to discuss the conclusion of a new National General Collective Labour Agreement (EGSSE), covering 2008-2009. The GSEE union confederation presented demands for a 10.4% rise in minimum pay rates.

The Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπονδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE) and the three central employer organisations – the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (Σύνδεσμος Επιχειρήσεων και Βιομηχανιών, SEV), General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (Γενική Συνομοσπονδία Επαγγελματιών Βιοτεχνών Εμπόρων Ελλάδας, GSEVEE) and National Confederation of Greek Traders (Εθνική Συνομοσπονδία Ελληνικού Εμπορίου, ESEE) - held a first meeting on 30 January 2008 to discuss the signing of a new National General Collective Labour Agreement (Εθνική Γενική Συλλογική Σύμβαση Εργασίας, EGSSE) for 2008-2009. In parallel, GSEE called a 24-hour general strike for 13 February, demanding the conclusion of a satisfactory EGSSE as well as the reversal of a social security reform that the government has set in motion (GR0711019I).

GSEE’s demands

Pay demands

It its demands for the 2008-2009 EGSSE, GSEE is calling for increases of around 10.4% in minimum pay rates, broken down as follows:

  • An increase of around 3% (in the form of a one-off payment on 1.1.2008) in respect of the anticipated increase in the consumers price index.
  • 2.2% for the anticipated increase in productivity in 2008.
  • 1% to offset loss of income due to higher oil prices, and a clause providing for further adjustments in the event of any occurrence affecting the basic assumptions on which the bargaining was carried out (e.g. inflation, productivity, etc.).
  • 4.3% as an extra increase to boost the gradual convergence of the purchasing power of minimum pay in Greece with the other EU-15 Member States.

Other GSEE demands include an increase in the family allowance, and higher pay for people working on holidays.

Non-pay demands

First on the GSEE’s list of non-pay demands is a shorter working week without loss of pay, with the 35-hour week as the ultimate goal.

Other demands include:

  • Protection for part-time employees, such as minimum hours for part-time workers of 4 hours/day and 20 hours/week, and a guarantee that part-time employees’ pay should in no circumstances be less than half the pay for similar full-time jobs.
  • Protection of the family, such as an increase in pregnancy/maternity leave to 18 weeks (from the 17 provided for in the 2000-2001 EGSSE) and an increase in paternity leave .
  • Protection from dismissal, such as provisions that any decreased performance by an employee due to a workplace accident should in no circumstances be deemed a ‘serious cause’ for dismissal, and that there should be serious cause for terminating individual open-ended employment contracts for people within five years of retirement.
  • Collective dismissals – the EGSSE should contain a clause pointing out the necessity for meaningful rather than just formal information and consultation with workers’ representatives on collective dismissals.
  • Transfer of undertakings (mergers, acquisitions) - in the event of the transfer of an operation or undertaking, the ‘normative’ provisions of any pre-existing enterprise-level collective agreement covering the employees of the company being transferred should be extended for a five-year transitional adjustment period as a mandatory provision of their individual contracts of employment.
  • Groups of enterprises - there should be a clause in the EGSSE stating that the two sides recognise the advisability and usefulness of promoting collective agreements at the level of groups of enterprises.
  • A clause deploring what GSEE sees as the separation of employees into older and younger groups, with differing rights.
  • Incorporation in the EGSSE of the EU-level social partners’ 2004 framework agreement on work-related stress (EU0410206F).

Positions of employers’ representatives

The employers’ representatives believe that the labour market in Greece is too regulated and that employment policies must be particularly aimed at workers’ continuing acquisition of new knowledge and skills, to enable them to adapt to the requirements of the changing labour market and technological progress. Specifically, employers’ demands include:

  • Greater labour market flexibility by promoting measures applying mainly to young people, the long-term unemployed and women – such as expansion of the system of apprenticeship, reinforcement of part-time employment, and maintenance of the difference in compensation for white- and blue-collar workers.
  • Reinforcement of lifelong learning/education, with continuing training provided to workers by the company itself.
  • Monitoring of the impact of the EGSSE, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Profit-sharing for workers.
  • Creation of a permanent body for cooperation between the social partners.
  • Measures for the modernisation of all institutions relating to employment and unemployment, particularly of the Labour Force Employment Organisation (OAED), the Mediation and Arbitration Service (OMED) and the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA).

Commentary

This initial meeting in the process of negotiating a new EGSSE was exploratory in nature. It was decided to hold a further meeting, where the employer side will present a specific counter-proposal on the level of pay increases, while it was agreed to refer the non-pay issues to legal experts for elaboration.

Bargaining is beginning in a tense political landscape, due to the social security reform being taken forward by the government (GR0711019I), the privatisation of the Piraeus and Thessaloniki Port Authorities, and developments at Olympic Airways (GR0801049I) and the Public Power Corporation. There was expected to be a big turnout at the strike of 13 February 2008, which carries on from an earlier general strike held on 12 December 2007 (GR0801059I).

Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE-GSEE)

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