Sharp increase in flexible forms of labour

The annual report from the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE) on its activities in 2010 was received with great interest as it is one of the few sources of statistical information about the situation in Greece’s labour market during the financial crisis. The report highlights the increase in the number of labour disputes since 2008 (particularly over payment) and shows that more and more full-time employment contracts are being converted into part-time or shift work contracts.

The Labour Inspectorate (SEPE) is the main investigative branch of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (YPAKP) and is charged with controlling the implementation of labour legislation in Greece. Its primary objective is to safeguard labour rights and the health and safety of workers. Because SEPE is also able to investigate (both alongside and independently from the social security organisations) the insurance coverage of employees, it plays an important role in the task of controlling undeclared work in Greece.

As well as its investigative role, SEPE acts as an intermediary/conciliator in resolving disputes between employers and employers. Here SEPE acts once the employee has submitted a written application. Subsequently SEPE calls a tripartite meeting to discuss the matter under dispute and how to resolve it.

SEPE publishes an annual report on its activities. Some of the key findings from the 2010 report are given below.

Rise in labour disputes

Data from the SEPE 2010 report show that labour disputes remained stable in 2010 compared with 2009 (20,555 in 2010 and 20,550 in 2009) but increased substantially between 2010 and 2008 (15,898 in 2008).

Just over half of workers’ complaints to SEPE regarding violations of the Greek labour law were about the non-payment of earned income, while 20% related to dismissals (contract terminations). The rest of the violations concerned breaches of Sunday closing, non-payment of bonuses and abuses of working hours (Table 1). Most of the violations were recorded in the food service (cafeterias), retail, hotel and cleaning company sectors.

Table 1: Labour law violations reported to SEPE in 2010

Category

Proportion

Delayed payment or non-payment of arrears

50.5%

Termination of employment contract

19.6%

Non-payment of holiday bonus

14.8%

Miscellaneous matters

7.2%

Non-payment of Christmas and Easter bonuses

5.6%

Excess of the statutory hour plan

2.0%

Matters related to equality

0.4%

Source: SEPE annual report 2010

Rise in flexible forms of employment contract

In the first five months of 2011, 5.6% fewer companies than in the corresponding period of 2010 concluded new contracts of any form. Furthermore, there was a 27.7% reduction in full-time employment contracts and the percentage of part-time employment contracts fell by 0.3%. Contrary to this, shift work contracts increased by 11.0% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Full-time, part-time and shift work contracts submitted to the Labour Inspectorate in first five months of 2010 and 2011

Figure 1: Full-time, part-time and shift work contracts submitted to the Labour Inspectorate in first five months of 2010 and 2011

In addition, there was a substantial increase in the number of full employment contracts converted into part-time and shift work contracts in the first five months of 2011 compared with the corresponding period in 2010. There was a 166% increase in the number of full-time contracts being converted to part-time employment, a 668% increase in the number changing to shift work following agreement with employees and a 5072% increase in the number altered to shift work following a unilateral decision by the employer (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Conversion of full-time employment contracts to types of flexible employment contracts in first five months of 2010 and 2011

Figure 2: Conversion of full-time employment contracts to types of flexible employment contracts in first five months of 2010 and 2011

A clear trend can be seen in the conversion of more and more full employment contracts into part-time or shift work contracts. In 2010, 26,253 full-time employment contracts were converted into various types of flexible employment contracts – 54.6% higher than in 2009. Already during the first five months of 2011, 24,641 full employment contracts have been converted into either part-time or shift work employment contracts (Table 2).

Table 2: Conversion of full-time employment contracts to flexible employment contracts
Conversion of full-time employment contracts to … 2009 2010 2011 (first five months)
Part-time employment contract

12,219

18,713 (53.1% increase)

13,210

Shift work agreed between employer and worker side

4,146

6,527 (57.4% increase)

8,690

Shift work imposed unilaterally by the employer side

612

1,013 (65.5% increase)

2,741

Total number of conversions

16,977

26,253 (54.6% increase)

24,641

Source: SEPE annual report 2010

Full employment contracts represented 79% of all new contracts in 2009, but in 2010 they represented 66.9% of all new contracts and during the first five months of 2011 they accounted for just 60.2%. However, the ratio of part-time employment contracts to the total number of new contracts increased from 16.7% in 2009 to 26.1% in 2010 and to 31.1% in the first five months of 2011. Shift work contracts accounted for 4.3% of the total number of new contracts in 2009, 6.9% of new employment contracts in 2010 and 8.7% of new employment contracts during the first five months of 2011 (Table 3).

Table 3: Share of employment contract type in respect of the total number of contracts submitted to SEPE
 

2009

2010

2011 (first five months)

Full-time employment contracts

79.0%

66.9%

60.2%

Part-time employment contracts

16.7%

26.1%

31.1%

Shift work

4.3%

6.9%

8.7%

Source: SEPE annual report 2010

Commentary

SEPE’s annual report for 2010 attracted considerable interest as it is one of the few sources of statistical information about the situation in Greece’s labour market during the financial crisis. It is clear that the economic recession has brought fundamental changes to the Greek labour market with a significant shift towards flexible employment contracts. However, many of the legislative initiatives designed to deal with the recession focus on the reduction of labour costs and the regulation of flexible employment relationships.

Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

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