Greece: Temporary agency work and collective bargaining in the EU

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 18 Diciembre 2008



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Although temporary employment was a pre-existing practice in Greece, the first relevant legislative regulations were adopted in 2001. However, this legislative framework has been criticized because it is not believed to adequately safeguard the employment, insurance and trade union rights of temporary employees.

Section 1. Definitions

1) The law defines temporary agency work as “work provided to another employer (indirect employer) for a limited length of time by an employee, who is bound to his employer (direct employer) by a contract or relationship of dependency for a fixed or indefinite term”. The meaning of temporary agency worker and user undertaking (indirect employer) are not defined more specifically.

2) No.

3) No. The public dialogue on this matter is not extensive. Trade unionism among temporary agency workers is very limited. Public opinion regards temporary agency work not as a separate sector but as a provider of services in the context of other sectors, not as a regular form of employment, but as a transitional stage in a bilateral employment relationship and a measure implemented by employers in order to reduce labour costs and violate the law on dismissals.

Section 2. Regulatory framework

1) No.

2) a) Temporary employment and the operation of Temporary Employment Agencies are regulated by legislation.

Law 2956/2001 refers both to the conditions for the creation and the terms of operation of temporary employment agencies, and to the employment rights of temporary employees, whereas the two ministerial decisions (30342/2002 and 30343/2002) focus on the first category of subjects and aim at filling the gaps in the previous legislation.

Finally, Law 3144/2003 refers to the establishment and operation of the Special Committee that delivers opinions to the Minister of Labour on the granting of operating licences to Temporary Employment Agencies.

b) No collective labour agreements have been signed.

3) a) The law stipulates that the length of time an employee works for an indirect employer may not be longer than 8 months. There may be a renewal for the same indirect employer, on condition that the total duration of the renewal does not exceed 8 months. If the employee continues to be employed by the same indirect employer for over 2 months after the 16 months have elapsed, then the employee’s employment contract with the temporary employment agency automatically becomes an open-ended employment contract between the employee and the indirect employer.

An employee may not work for an indirect employer when: a) such work replaces employees who are exercising their right to strike, b) during the previous year the indirect employer had carried out collective dismissals of employees doing the same jobs, and c) the indirect employer is subject to the special provisions for hiring in the public sector.

b) The law provides that two contracts should be concluded in the case of hiring out of labour as a business.

The contract between the temporary employment agency and the temporary agency worker is a contract of employment. It must be in writing and it may be for a fixed or indefinite term. In the case where, at the time the contract is concluded between the temporary employment agency and the temporary employee, the indirect employer is not known, immediately after the contract is concluded between the temporary employment agency and the indirect employer the latter must draw up a supplementary contract between the temporary employment agency and the employee, defining the more specific terms for the provision of the employee’s labour to the indirect employer.

The contract concluded in writing between the temporary employment agency and the indirect employer specifies the pay and insurance of the employee for the place and the time that he/she provides services to the indirect employer. The temporary employment agency must notify employees of these details.

c) The law stipulates that the provisions for the indirect employer’s staff performing the same jobs shall apply to the insurance of the temporary agency workers. The temporary employment agency and the indirect employer are jointly and severally responsible for paying the insurance contributions of temporary employees. Each temporary employment agency, in order to be granted an operating licence, must submit two letters of guarantee from a bank as a financial guarantee, one of which should be submitted to the Social Insurance Foundation (Ίδρυμα Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων, IKA) guaranteeing payment of insurance contributions. The amount of this letter of guarantee may not be less than EUR58,700.

d) According to the law, a temporary employment agency may be established only in the form of a société anonyme with share capital of at least EUR176,083. For the establishment and operation of a temporary employment agency, a special licence must be obtained from the Minister of Labour and Social Security, after an opinion from the special Temporary Employment Monitoring Committee (EEPA). The three-member EEPA consists of the General Secretary of the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection as president, and the Director of the Employment Directorate of the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection and the Director of the Employment Directorate of the Labour Force Employment Organisation (Οργανισμός Απασχόλησης Εργατικού Δυναμικού, OAED) as members for a two-year term. In order to be granted an operating licence, every temporary employment agency must submit two letters of guarantee from a bank as a financial guarantee, the first to guarantee the wages of its temporary employees, and the second to guarantee their insurance contributions. The first letter of guarantee must be submitted to the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection (Υπουργείο Απασχόλησης και Κοινωνικής Προστασίας, YPAKP), and must be in an amount of not less than EUR146,700. The second letter of guarantee must be submitted to IKA and must be in an amount of not less than EUR58,700.

e) According to the law temporary employment agencies may not carry out any other activity, except for the following: a) mediation in finding jobs, for which they need special permission, and b) human resources assessment or training.

f) No

4) The legislation makes some individual provisions informed by the principle of non-discrimination, but it contains no general clause establishing the principle of non-discrimination. The law provides that:

Employees’ pay may not be lower than that set by the industry-wide, occupation-based or enterprise-level collective agreements applicable to the staff of the indirect employer, and in no case may it be lower than that set in the current National General Collective Labour Agreement (Εθνική Γενική Συλλογική Σύμβαση Εργασίας, EGSSE).

The pay of an employee who does not provide labour to an indirect employer may not be lower than that set in the current EGSSE. The provisions for the indirect employer’s staff performing similar occupations are also applicable to the insurance of temporary employees.

Employees with contracts of temporary employment enjoy the same level of protection as regards health and safety at work as that provided to the indirect employer’s other employees.

5) No special legislation is provided with regard to the exercise of temporary agency workers’ union rights, either in the context of the temporary employment agencies or in the context of the user undertakings. Thus only the existing general statutory framework may be interpreted. The solutions that emerge are not adequate, because the existing statutory framework operates in the context of the bipartite formal relationship of subordination. For example, the law provides that employees may join only one union; however, there is a need for representation of employees both within the context of the temporary employment agencies and also of the user undertaking. However, according to an interpretation of the existing statutory framework:

Exercise of trade union rights vis-à-vis the temporary employment agencies:

In the context of the temporary employment agencies, temporary employees may establish or join an enterprise-level or industry-wide trade union organisation, on condition that they have been with the undertaking, operation or sector of employment for at least two months during the last year.

Exercise of trade union rights vis-à-vis the indirect employer:

In Greece, Article 22, paragraph 7 of Law 2956/2001 stipulates that any clause that directly or indirectly impedes the trade union rights of employees in this category shall be considered invalid. Therefore employees working through a temporary employment agency for indirect employers also have the right to join the respective trade union organisations, provided that they meet the conditions laid down in their statutes. The correct interpretation of the existing statutory framework concludes that they must be calculated along with the total number of employees in the user undertaking.

Information and consultation:

No specific provision is made, apart from the general provisions of Presidential Decree 240/2006, which transposes Community Directive 2002/14/EC as it stands into Greek law.

6) a) No. As a monitoring mechanism provision is made for the contracts between temporary employment agencies and employees to be notified within 10 working days from their creation to the Ministry of Labour (YPAKP), which then forwards them to the Corps of Labour Inspectors (Σώμα Επιθεωρητών Εργασίας, SEPE) and OAED.

b) For each violation of the provisions of Law 2956/2001 the SEPE levies a fine on the violator, ranging from EUR2,936 to EUR29,360, depending on the severity of the violation. Running a temporary employment agency without an operating licence results in the administrative sanction of being shut down and its operations suspended indefinitely by the competent police authority. Anyone starting up or operating a temporary employment agency without an operating licence is punished by up to two years imprisonment and a monetary fine.

7) The law provides that employees may not be hired by an indirect employer under a temporary employment contract in order to replace employees who are exercising their right to strike.

Section 3. Social dialogue and collective bargaining

1) No. The Association of Temporary Employment Agencies (Ένωση Εταιριών Προσωρινής Απασχόλησης και Στελέχωσης Επιχειρήσεων, ENEPASE) is not an employer organisation but an association whose objective is to inform public opinion and promote temporary agency work in Greece.

2) The Panhellenic Union of Employees Providing Labour to Third Parties (Πανελλήνιος Σύλλογος Υπαλλήλων με Παραχώρηση Εργασίας σε Τρίτους, PASYPET) consists of about 70 members. The union was established by temporary agency workers working for the National Bank of Greece, and intends in the future to also include workers of the same status employed in other sectors.

3) No.

4) -

5) -

6) -

Section 4. Employment and working conditions of TA workers

1) a) -

b) According to data from the YPAKP for the years 2003-2004, 52.34% of temporary employees work for the indirect employer for one month, 15.43% for up to two months, 9.17% for up to three months, 4.66% for up to four months, 1.49% for up to five months, 2.59% for up to six months, 0.86% for up to seven months, 13.45% for up to eight months, and for the remaining 0.01% there are no data.

2) a) There are no such official data. According to estimates by a representative of ENEPASE, user undertakings contact temporary employment agencies mainly for the following reasons: to meet needs arising in labour intensive periods, for cases requiring large numbers of staff immediately, to replace staff on leave (regular, sick leave, maternity leave, etc.) even for one day and during holiday periods.

b) There are no such official data. According to estimates by a representative of ENEPASE, people who apply to temporary employment agencies are mainly students, young people and long-term unemployed, for the purpose of acquiring experience, being reintegrated in the labour market following a long absence, because they need a second job, or as a temporary solution until they find a permanent job.

3) A quality survey of 35 temporary agency workers by means of a questionnaire reports that the main difference which the survey respondents identified between themselves and other employees in the user company was in relation to pay, despite the fact that Law 2956/2001 recognises the principle of equal treatment. The temporary agency workers reported that they do not receive the same pay as other employees in the user company and that they are excluded from bonuses and benefits awarded to other employees. Furthermore, the agency workers stated that, compared with other staff, they have limited scope for action and decision making, while experiencing higher levels of work stress (GR0707029I).

Section 5. The extent and composition of TAW.

The latest data from the YPAKP, referring to 2003-2004, are the following:

1) a) In the second half of 2003 the number of people doing temporary agency work was 2,851. In the second half of 2004 the number was 5,323.

b) -

2) a) In the second half of 2003, 56.7% of temporary agency workers were men and 43.3% were women. In the second half of 2004, 51% were men and 49% were women.

b) -

c) or 2003-2004, 83.34 of temporary agency workers were 19-35 years old, 13.86% were 36-55, 1.67% were under 19 and 1.12% were over 56.

3) a) There was a striking increase in the total number of temporary agency workers between 2003 and 2004. As the absolute data show, the number of temporary agency workers in 2004 was 83.4% higher than in 2003. In addition, the number of temporary employment contracts increased strikingly in 2004, compared to 2003. Specifically, the temporary employment contracts concluded in 2004 increased by 6,936 in absolute numbers compared to 2003, i.e. by 109.3%.

b) -

4) The data from the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection are valid, but require updating. The next report from the Ministry for the years 2005-2006 is expected before summer. Otherwise there are only a few studies of limited extent on this subject.

Commentary by the NC

In the unions’ view, there must be a general provision for the right of temporary agency workers to enjoy from the user undertaking all the terms and conditions of employment applying to permanent employees and emanating from collective labour agreements as well as legislative instruments or corporate practices, provided that these are more favourable. Practices to circumvent the regulation providing for automatic conversion of employment contracts between temporary employment agencies and temporary agency workers into open-ended contracts between user undertakings and temporary agency workers should be combated through monitoring by the SEPE, whose role should be reinforced. Temporary agency workers should have the express right to join enterprise-level trade union organisations and works councils in the user undertaking. Furthermore, employees’ right to information and consultation should expressly include information and consultation prior to deciding whether to use of temporary agency work in the undertaking or operation. Temporary agency workers must be expressly included when counting the minimum number of workers required to set up workers’ representative bodies, both in user undertakings and in temporary employment agencies. The law should set limits on the ability of indirect employers to use temporary agency work. For example, it should specify that it is not possible to meet fixed and permanent needs by means of temporary employment agencies. The maximum time temporary agency work may be used should be set at three months. Another view seeks abolition of all temporary agency work.

According to ENEPASE, the procedure for setting up temporary employment agencies must involve less bureaucracy. ENEPASE also lays particular emphasis on the need to combat the phenomenon of temporary employment agencies operating illegally, since the poor practices of such agencies give the whole sector a bad name.

Sofia Lampousaki, INE/GSEE

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