Industrial relations

Greece: Latest developments in working life Q4 2019

New legislation to establish a register of trade unions and employer organisations, a new procedure for the extension of sectoral collective agreements, and changes to the arbitration procedure are the main topics of interest in this article . This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Greece in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Register of trade unions and employer organisations

In October 2019, the newly elected government passed Law 4635/19, which includes provisions concerning the creation of an official register of trade unions and employer organisations (based on their representativeness and competence to conclude collective employment agreements). The new legislative provisions state that all trade unions and employer organisations must be entered into the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ Ergani information system. In particular, those concluding collective agreements and/or appointing representatives to manage tripartite bodies overseen by the ministry must be on the register.

In terms of the practical implementation of this legislation, the law stipulates that a Decision of the Minister of Labour will regulate every issue regarding the creation of the register, the disclosure of data and every technical detail necessary for the provision of information from the register. This includes the protection of personal data, particularly data regarding the representativeness of trade unions and employer organisations.

Changes to extension mechanism for sectoral collective agreements

In August 2018, after seven years (from 2011) during which the extension mechanism for sectoral collective agreements was suspended, the provisions of the Laws 4472/2017 and 4475/2017 for a new extension mechanism of sectoral collective agreements and the favourability principle came into force. Nevertheless, in October 2019, the New Democracy government brought in new rules on the extension mechanism. According to Law 4635/2019, the extension of a collective agreement or arbitration decision requires:

  • an official application to the Minister of Labour, notifying the Supreme Council of Labour (ASE), accompanied by documentation on the impact of the extension on competitiveness and employment
  • a reasoned opinion from the ASE to the Minister of Labour taking the above into account, together with a substantiated attestation from the competent department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs that the collective arrangement is binding for employers of more than 50% of the workers in the sector
  • the Minister of Labour to issue the extension decision

The new law provides exceptions for companies that are facing serious financial difficulties, in a state of bankruptcy, or negotiating an out-of-court settlement or financial restructuring. These companies may be exempt if the ASE makes a reasoned decision on the terms or conditions, or on the entire collective employment agreement. In addition, subject to the Minister of Labour’s decision and approval from the ASE, it is possible for a specific company to be exempt and for any relevant issues regarding the implementation of this provision to be identified specifically for each enterprise, especially measures to protect existing jobs.

Changes to mediation and arbitration systems

In late October Law 4635/2019 was passed by Greek parliament, which includes a revision of the arbitration system that contradicts the previous legislation regarding the right to unilateral recourse to arbitration. According to this law, unilateral arbitration may take place only as a last resort for resolving collective labour disputes and exclusively in the following cases:

  • if the collective dispute relates to companies/undertakings of social or public interest, the operation of which is vital to the basic needs of the community at large
  • if the collective dispute relates to the conclusion of a collective agreement and the negotiations between the parties fail definitively, but need to be resolved for a reason of general social or public interest linked to the functioning of the Greek economy

Commentary

In October 2019, the New Democracy government passed new legislation on industrial relations, revising provisions (having been introduced by the previous SYRIZA government) on the extension mechanism of collective agreements and the right to unilateral recourse to the arbitration procedure. The government also established a register for trade unions and employer organisations. These changes were included in Law 4635/19, which refers to economic growth, therefore connecting the performance of the economy with stricter rules for industrial relations.

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