European Works Councils - transposition completed in Greece

Legislation transposing EC Directive 94/45/EC on the establishment of European Works Councils was finally adopted in Greece on 20 March 1997

A Presidential Decree on the establishment of European Works Councils (EWCs) in Greece was signed on 20 March 1997. Its purpose is to transpose into Greek law EC Directive 94/45/EC on the provision of information and consultation to employees in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings, which, under the terms of the Directive, should have been transposed by 22 September 1996. The Presidential Decree takes up the option provided in the Directive of not applying its provisions to maritime workers.

One of the areas left by the Directive to member states to establish is the selection procedure for the national employee representatives on special negotiating bodies and statutory EWCs. The means for selecting Greek employee representatives are, in order of priority: nomination by trade unions; nomination by works councils; and direct elections amongst the workforce as a whole as stipulated under national legislation.

Although the transposition of this Directive into Greek law had been delayed, a number of multinational companies operating in Greece had already begun the process of signing voluntary agreements on European-level information and consultation arrangements, usually in the form of a European works council-type structure. In this respect, the example of Citibank is noteworthy. This company established an EWC with great success long before the Directive's transposition date, having taken the initiative from Greece.

According to data available from the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), it is estimated that approximately 80 companies operating in Greece meet the requirements of the Directive, and have to establish a EWC. Amongst these, some 75% are in the manufacturing sector (pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food and drink, building and construction, oil and so on) whilst the remaining 25% are in banking and insurance.

However, despite the breadth of the sectors involved, only a few companies have actually established a EWC or are actively engaged in setting one up. In fact, according to existing data, only around 15 have already established a EWC with the participation of Greek representatives. Amongst these, the oil sector is the most heavily involved, with four out of a possible seven companies with EWCs, followed by the broader manufacturing sector (nine out of 50), banks (one out of 20) and tourism (with only one hotel business so far). These data should be viewed with caution since no systematic records have been kept. However, GSEE has recently conducted research relevant to the subject, and a more complete and accurate picture is expected soon.

It should be pointed out that, in the meantime, multinational companies with operations in Greece have found it very difficult to comply with European Community legislation on EWCs. The reasons for this can be summarised as follows:

  • the delay of the Greek Government in transposing the Directive and in providing the necessary information to those directly involved;
  • the fact that, due to this delay, the employer representatives of multinational companies operating in Greece have not informed the employee representatives about any initiatives proposed by the parent company and have therefore not prepared them for participating in the relevant procedures;
  • the lack of information provided by the trade unions to employee representatives regarding the new situation in place; and
  • the fact that participation as an idea and mind-set in Greece has developed only to a minimal degree, evidence for which can also be seen in the limited functioning of works councils even in enterprises at national level (introduced by Law 1767/1988, ratifying ILO Convention no. 135).
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