Courts rule on issue of fixed-term work
A number of Greek court rulings issued in April-June 2003 have focused on the issue of workers who are employed to meet the standing needs of employers for long periods under successive fixed-term employment contracts. The courts have upheld these workers' cases and converted their fixed-term contracts into open-ended contracts, in the light of the 1999 EU fixed-term work Directive.
Three recent court decisions - No. 446/2002 of the Crete Court of Appeals dated 4 June 2002, No. 1872/2003 of the Patras Single-Member Court of First Instance dated 16 April 2003, and No. 38/2003 of the Volos Court of First Instance dated 30 April 2003 - have converted workers' successive fixed-term contracts into contracts of indefinite duration, in line with the provisions of the 1999 EU fixed-term contracts Directive (1999/70/EC) (EU9905170F).
The rationale of these three decisions is that the exceptions set out in the recent Presidential Decree (PD) No. 81/2003 on 'regulations regarding workers with fixed-term contracts' (GR0305101F) - which sought to implement EU Directive 1999/70/EC - and the restrictions of Law No. 2190/1994 regarding the 'establishment of an independent authority to select staff and regulate management issues' are contrary to the spirit and the letter of Directive 1999/70/EC, as they severely restrict its scope of application. Thus they are unfair to a large number of fixed-term workers whose rights have been violated.
The provisions of Law No. 2112/1920 on 'obligatory termination of employment contracts for private sector employees' imply that setting a fixed term in an employment contract should be warranted by the nature, the type and the purpose of the work, as well as the duration of the work, which is dictated by reasons mainly traceable to the particular conditions of operation of the undertaking. However, in the event that setting a fixed term is not warranted by the nature of the contract or the needs of the undertaking, as is the case when the work being performed meets standing, regular needs of the undertaking, successive fixed-term contracts are regarded as a single employment contract of indefinite duration. These relevant provisions of Law 2112/1920 are also applied expressly to employment relationships in the public sector, even when legislation regarding the specific public service department or agency provides for the conclusion of fixed-term agreements, or when the relevant provision of a law forbids the conversion of fixed-term contracts into open-ended contracts. Provisions of this latter type, according to the courts, are contrary to EU Directive 1999/70/EC, which requires Member States to establish a legislative framework to prevent abuse that may arise from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships.
Since approximately 65% of Greek workers employed under fixed-term contracts are not covered by the legislation currently in force, and their only recourse is legal action, relevant court rulings are of special importance. They also highlight the willingness of the Greek courts to bypass national law and directly implement Community legislation. At the same time, they raise hopes in some quarters that the recently adopted PD 81/2003 will be revised in this regard.