Government invitation to social dialogue

In March 1997, the Greek Government announced that it would invite the social partners to consultations ("social dialogue") on the triple themes of development, competitiveness and employment. The social partners have been requested to submit their positions relating to the content and themes of the process by the date of the first meeting, due to take place towards the end of May.

Taking into account significant changes in the international environment and their impact on the Greek economy, the Government in March 1997 announced that it would invite the social partners to a process of social dialogue on a set of three themes: development, competitiveness and employment. The first meeting is scheduled to take place towards the end of May. Participants in the dialogue include representatives of Ministries, employer and employee organisations from both the private and the public sectors and the Chambers of Commerce, amongst others.

Within this framework, the Ministers of National Economy and of Labour and Social Security have circulated a document which includes 19 subject areas with specific targets on which the various competent institutions are invited to submit their positions. These subject areas include the following: maintaining increases in real income under conditions of low inflation; public investment; private investment; investment in human resources; banking; "lame duck" companies; industrial policy; effectiveness of the public sector; collective bargaining; pay and wages; working time; part-time work; social protection for those working in new forms of employment; territorial employment pacts; conditions for working pensioners; rights and obligations under the law 2434/96 on employment and vocational training; and employment policy in the EU.

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) believes that the targets set in the Government document as well as the 19 subject areas themselves are too general and insufficiently precise, stressing the process of social dialogue rather than the problems to be solved.

With respect to the National General Collective Agreement (EGSSE), SEV underlines the collective autonomy of the two parties involved - employers and employees - and stresses that there is no need to discuss the matter further. They prefer the Government not to intervene in this area. As far as the Government proposal for local collective agreements is concerned, SEV has generally come out in favour, declaring that it will support this initiative even if the new agreements supersede other collective agreements concluded at either national, enterprise or occupational level provided that they do actually solve local problems.

Meanwhile, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), focuses on three points: the content of the dialogue and the subject areas concerning collective bargaining and working time.

In relation to the content of the dialogue, GSEE has criticised the failure to include certain areas like the modernisation of the educational system and channels for determining public policy, redistribution of income, social insurance and the pensions system.

Referring to working time, GSEE has asked the Government for a commitment not to subvert the eight-hour day and for a reduction of weekly working time without pay cuts. It has also stressed that it will not negotiate under any circumstances on those proposals which focus on the destabilisation of labour relations and social rights (such as proposals which would undermine collective agreements concluded at the three existing bargaining levels). It furthermore demands the maintenance of free collective bargaining.

Insofar as local agreements are concerned, GSEE is making it clear that it will welcome any that help to solve environmental, cultural and educational problems.

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