Employers reply to GSEE call for 35-hour week talks

Download article in original language : GR9902114NEL.DOC

In January 1999, Greece's main employers' organisations - SEV, GSEVEE and ESEE - replied to an invitation from the GSEE trade union confederation to enter negotiations on the introduction of a 35-hour working week. The employers are willing to enter a dialogue but remain opposed to any reduction in working time

On 14 January 1999, the executive boards of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEVEE) and the National Confederation of Greek Trade (ESEE) sent a written reply to the invitation by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) to enter into negotiations on the "implementation of the 35-hour week in the private sector of the Greek economy, without loss of pay" (GR9901110N). The debate about the 35-hour week has been prominent in Greek industrial relations over the past several years (GR9712145F).

In their reply, the employers' organisations stated that they had studied carefully the GSEE' s invitation to negotiate, and that they would enter into a dialogue, starting in the first 10 days of February, which was likely to bring to the fore the problems associated with this very important question. However, they pointed out that private sector employers' organisations have clearly and categorically expressed their opposition to a shorter working week, because in their view this would have unfavourable effects on the competitiveness of a relatively weak economy, with grave consequences for other crucial areas, primarily unemployment. In particular, the employers maintain that reduced working time does not appear to deal with the problem purported to be the main reason for its implementation, ie unemployment, and that it will obviously place a severe burden on production costs.

In this context, the executive boards of SEV, GSEVEE and ESEE have expressed the conviction that at present the proposal to reduce working time is not only premature but also harmful, and that at the crucial juncture at which Greece finds itself today, it cannot afford the luxury of degrading its position and should be one of the last countries to consider taking such a step. It should do so only, according to the employers, after modernisation of the existing framework of industrial relations has been completed, because in other countries this has been shown to help reduce unemployment and improve competitiveness.

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