Greece: Developments in working life – Q1 2016

The first evaluation of the economic reform program, the reform of the social security system, pension issues, rulings on liability for occupational accidents and the growing refugee crisis are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Greece in the first quarter of 2016.

First evaluation of the economic reform program

2016 began with discussions on the completion of the first evaluation of the economic reform program (with the speeding up of procedures being foregrounded and also linked with public debt arrangements). Progress with the evaluation has been hampered by efforts to manage the ongoing refugee crisis. There were also discussions on the reform of the social security taxation system and the ‘demands’ of the institutions that pensions be reduced and the ‘zero-deficit’ clause for supplementary pensions maintained.

Industrial relations, social security reform and social unrest

The country has been in the grip of strikes and constant demonstrations with opposition from the majority in the private and public sector – such as farmers, people working for scientific bodies, employees in local government, ports and shops – to the proposed changes to the social security system. The measures, set out in a 170-page plan, include:

  • one insurance fund to be created for all, with uniform rules for calculating contributions and pension provision;
  • a new method of calculation, based on the total working life of the insured person, with banded replacement rates;
  • a national pension to be paid, without income criteria, to anyone with at least 15 years of insurance;
  • social security contributions to be increased by 1.5 percentage points: one percentage point for employers and 0.5 for employees, so that no reduction in pensions is required;
  • the conclusion of the National General Collective Agreement between the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the national Employers’ Associations which applies from 1 January 2016 until 31 December, 2016, ensuring the continuation of institutional conditions established by previous National General Collective Agreements (EGSSE);
  • an amendment to the bill signed by the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health and the deputy Minister of Interior,  that sets the new compulsory retirement age for public servants – up from 65 to 67;
  • a decision by the Court of Auditors that the Law 4093/2012 that cut the salaries and pensions of practicing national health system doctors in August 2012, was unconstitutional – increases of up to 30% on basic salaries and of 21%-22% on allowances must now be paid retrospectively, dating back to 1 August 2012.

New rulings on employees’ liability for accidents at work

The Supreme Court made two significant rulings on liability for occupational accidents. In the first, the court ruled that employers could claim full compensation from their employees for damages at work, if it could be proved that they were caused by a mistake made by the employee. The second ruling attributes a high degree of liability to an employee who has a fatal accident at work.

Growing humanitarian crisis

Greece is facing a growing humanitarian crisis after more than 100,000 refugees from Syria and other countries arrived in the first two months of the year, compared with 5,000 in the same period last year. According to the most recent figures (31 March 2016), there are (in total) 51,393 refugees in Greece; 11,324 are in the refugee camp at Idomeni, 14,960 in Attica and 5,337 in the Eastern Aegean (with 2,844 on Lesvos alone). A new bill – The organisation and operation of an asylum service, a refugees authority, a reception and identification service; establishment of a general secretariat for reception, to adapt Greek legislation to the provisions of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council – tabled in parliament on 30 March, ratifies the Brussels agreement on the refugee crisis. The bill provides (among other items) common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (recast) (Law 180/29-6-2013), and work provisions for the beneficiaries of international protection.

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