Greece: Latest developments in working life Q1 2019
An increase to the minimum wage; a ruling on the employment of cleaning, catering and security services employees in hospitals; and the cancellation of the GSEE Congress 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 2019.
Minimum wage increased and sub-minimum wage abolished
Following the completion of the tripartite consultation to set the minimum wage, Minister of Labour Efi Achtsioglou issued Decision 4241/127, which increased the minimum wage from €580 to €650 (gross) from 1 February 2019. This is an increase of about 11% and is expected to increase the earnings of 600,000 workers.
Under the same decision, the €510 sub-minimum wage for young people under the age of 25 was abolished. There is now one minimum wage (€650) for all employees, irrespective of age, which represents an increase for under-25s of about 27%. The new rules also result in increases to 24 allowances or benefits linked to the minimum wage (unemployment benefit, special maternity benefit, employment schemes, etc.), which is expected to benefit 280,000 people.
Despite objections from the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV),  the seniority allowance for three years of service is calculated on the basis of the new minimum wage, as the Minister of Labour laid out in her circular (7613/395). This allowance is mandatory for up to three three-year periods for work performed up to 2012. The bonus for three years of service is equal to 10% (€65) of the minimum wage.
- Ministry of Labour: Καθορισμός κατώτατου μισθού και κατώτατου ημερομισθίου για τους υπαλλήλους και τους εργατοτεχνίτες όλης της χώρας (Decision 4241/127)
- Ministry of Labour: Οδηγίες για την εφαρμογή του κατώτατου μισθού και του κατώτατου ημερομισθίου για τους υπαλλήλους και τους εργατοτεχνίτες όλης της χώρας (Decision 7613/395)
Social partners remain divided over minimum wage
Social partners had mixed reactions to the new minimum wage level.
The Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) sought the statutory restoration of the minimum wage to €751 for all workers, as it was under the 2010 national general collective bargaining agreement and before the statutory reduction of the minimum wage in 2012. The GSEE also sought the reintroduction of the system of collective bargaining among the national social partners in order to set the minimum wage. 
SEV and the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) were in favour of the increase, provided the economy is strong enough to support it in terms of productivity, competitiveness, unemployment and undeclared work. The organisations also wanted the increase in the minimum wage to be linked to tax deductions and reduced social security contributions, and for it to be decoupled from the average wage by rationalising mandatory arbitration. 
The Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) supported an increase in general, but felt it should be lower than what was proposed, with priority given to reducing social security contributions and taxation. The confederation expressed concerns about whether small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would be able to afford the new wage. 
The Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) was in favour of increasing the minimum wage, but also lowering the tax-free threshold for employees and reducing non-wage costs for employers. 
The Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE) was concerned about the negative impact of the increase on businesses, especially SMEs, as it will not be accompanied by lower employer contributions and a reduced tax burden for employers and employees. 
The GSEVEE and ESEE reiterated their view that free collective bargaining should be restored by re-establishing the decisive involvement of the social partners when it comes to setting the minimum wage.
Cleaning, catering and security services employees directly employed by public hospitals
On 20 March, Supreme Administrative Court Decision 68/18-3-2019 definitively rejected the requests brought by private contractors that cleaning, catering and security services may not be awarded directly to employees.
This decision follows the judgment of the European Court of Justice, (Case C-260/17) which found in favour of the Greek government and held that legislation awarding cleaning, catering and security services for public hospitals directly to employees rather than contractors was fully compatible with European law.
Although the case brought to the Supreme Administrative Court specifically involved Evangelismos Hospital, the ruling covers all hospitals in Greece.
- Ministry of Health: Απόφαση της Ολομέλειας του ΣτΕ απορρίπτει τις αιτήσεις αναστολών των εργολάβων καθαριότητας, φύλαξης και σίτισης στα νοσοκομεία
GSEE Congress cancelled
The 37th GSEE Congress was due to run from 14–17 March and welcome 400 delegates representing 146 secondary organisations (federations and labour centres). However, action by the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) – an atypical party faction within the trade unions representing communist workers – prevented the congress from taking place.
On 21 March, the GSEE, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) appealed to the Greek President, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and party leaders, and called for the preservation of free trade unionism. They argued that the violent practices employed by PAME posed a threat to the safety of participants and violated fundamental articles of the law and international labour standards laid down in the international conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). 
Despite this appeal, PAME also interrupted a second effort to convene the congress on 4 April. Failure to hold a congress caused the GSEE’s electoral procedures to be annulled, which created significant problems in terms of its proper and lawful representation. The case went before the courts, where a judge appointed a temporary administrative board within the GSEE whose main aim is to organise a new electoral congress.