National general collective agreement signed for 2008-2009

In March 2008, the Greek social partners signed a National General Collective Labour Agreement for 2008-2009. The agreement increases minimum wage rates by a total of 12.42% over two years, which is above forecast inflation. It also introduces new provisions in areas such as annual leave, work-related stress and social dialogue .

On 26 March 2008, following several months of negotiations (GR0803019I) a two-year National General Collective Labour Agreement (EGSSE) was signed on the workers’ side by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE, www.gsee.gr), and on the employers’ side by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV, www.fgi.org.gr), the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEVEE) and the National Confederation of Greek Traders (ESEE, www.ESEE.gr). The agreement runs from 1 January 2008 (backdated) to 31 December 2009.

The new agreement

A key role of the EGSSE is to set minimum levels of pay in the private sector. It sets the basis for collective bargaining leading to the conclusion of industry-wide agreements in individual sectors of the economy.

The agreement provides for increases in minimum pay rates of 3.45% from 1 January 2008, 3% from 1 September 2008 and 5.5% from 1 May 2009. Over the two year-term, this amounts to a total cumulative pay increase of 12.42%, which should cover anticipated inflation.

The monthly minimum wage rate for unmarried people with no children rises from €658 to: €681 on 1 January 2008; €701 on 1 September 2008; and €740 on 1 May 2009. The daily minimum wage rate for this group rises from €29.39 to: €30.40 on 1 January 2008; €31.32 on 1 September 2008; and €33.04 on 1 May 2009.

The EGSSE also regulates a number of non-pay issues. The most important amendments in the 2008-2009 agreement are:

  • the same leave entitlements for foster parents as for natural or adoptive parents;
  • immediate implementation of the framework agreement on work-related stress signed in October 2004 by the EU-level social partners (EU0410206F);
  • more days of annual leave for employees after 25 years of service, ultimately increasing to 26 days for people who work a five-day week and 31 for those who work a six-day week;
  • the creation of standing committee, known as the ‘Tribune for Dialogue’, to provide a forum for organised dialogue between the social partners;
  • a joint statement of the need for a national strategy to address undeclared work.

Social partner reactions

Both employers’ and workers’ representatives voiced their satisfaction that an agreement had been reached.

The trade union side stressed that the pay increases agreed for 2008-2009 are higher than forecast inflation, and that the national agreement will allow bargaining on industry-wide collective agreements to begin from a relatively high starting point and basis for calculation.

Dimitris Daskalopoulos, the chair of SEV, described the agreement as a modern-day pact for industrial peace and social cohesion. He laid particular emphasis on putting in place the standing Tribune for Dialogue, which he hopes will be the basis for a permanent dialogue between the social partners on all major economic and social issues.

The chair of ESEE, the Greek traders’ organisation, Dimitris Armenakis, stressed that the pay rises exceeding inflation will increase workers’ purchasing power and therefore stimulate consumption, which is an effective way of combating unemployment since it boosts the turnover of commercial enterprises.

Commentary

The conclusion of the new agreement on minimum private sector pay increases helps to create conditions of industrial peace, in this field of industrial relations at least. Given that the conclusion of the EGSSE is the basis for the conclusion of individual industry-wide agreements and that the agreed minimum increases exceed anticipated inflation, the conditions are being created where a further substantial increase in pay at the sectoral level can be expected, in difficult economic circumstances. Nevertheless, the achievement of industrial peace depends not only on pay agreements but also on a range of other issues, such as the social security system or working time arrangements, where recent developments, notably those relating to the government’s reform of the social security system (GR0805029I), have created conditions of conflict between workers and the government.

Stathis Tikos, INE/GSEE

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