Territorial Employment Pacts underway
A framework for "Territorial Employment Pacts" was launched by the National Institute of Labour on 6 March 1997, laying the foundation for their development and implementation. The social partners have since adopted their own positions on the initiative.
Debate about employment has resumed over the last few months in Greece, owing to an initiative to set up "Territorial Employment Pacts" (TEPs).
On 6 March 1997 the tripartite National Institute of Labour (EIE), which is reponsible for the technical support of such schemes, announced the framework for setting up and implementing TEPs to boost employment in particular geogrpahical areas. The first phase - a pilot project - will begin this autumn in seven territories with high rates of unemployment. Both the Government and the two sides of industry have since adopted positions on this initiative.
The Government has indicated that the social partners will play a crucial role in the process of industrial relations readjustment required by the scheme. It also stressed that the legal framework for free collective bargaining gives the social partners the chance to come to agreements at different levels on matters of labour and production flexibility, particularly in relation to the balance to be struck between pay, productivity and working time arrangements. Furthermore, the Government stressed the need for dialogue and partnership relationships at local level since TEPs require direct and substantial participation from the private sector.
The Government has also given employees and their representatives an important role in directing TEPs, insisting however that they will operate on a voluntary basis. In conclusion, it underlined the importance of labour flexibility and the introduction of special incentives to create new jobs in areas of high unemployment. To resolve these problems, the Government has invited employers and employees to engage in a free, open and honest dialogue. However, such a dialogue is expected to stumble on a number of difficulties since both sides have a number of issues which, for them, are not negotiable.
On the employers' side, the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) has come out generally in favour of the TEPs, declaring its intention to support the new initiative. Nevertheless, it has set three preconditions:
- the relevant labour legislation must be reformed, particularly to allow the introduction of more flexible forms of work in order to prevent local employers from abstaining from the TEPs, which would lead to their breakdown in practice;
- the responsibility for planning and carrying out the scheme should not be exclusively in the hands of the state, which would merely lead to a rigid and bureaucratic operation; and
- the EIE should make contact with all relevant social institutions.
From the employees' side, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) has made plain its intention to support those trade union organisations that participate in TEPs that include economic development initiatives alongside intervention for the protection and support of the unemployed. However, GSEE opposes TEPs which might focus on boosting enterprises' cash flow, reducing labour costs, undermining collective agreements and destabilising labour relations, all policies that, it believes, undercut the advantages that the TEPs could bring. GSEE also stresses the need to take advantage of the TEP framework to ensure that it becomes part of an integrated national policy for unemployed people - something which, it alleges, is constantly neglected by the Government. In the absence of such a policy, GSEE believes that it is better for the Government not to intervene, especially in whatever is agreed in national general collective agreements.