Industrial relations bill passed
August 1997 saw the adoption of controversial new legislation on industrial relations in Greece, despite widespread opposition from the social partners and political opposition.
On 7 August 1998, in a climate of tension, and in spite of objections from trade unions, employers and all the political parties with the exception of the ruling Socialist Party, Parliament passed the much-debated bill on the regulation of industrial relations before the end of its summer session (GR9808185F).
In relation to the first draft (GR9807181F), the final draft bill laid before Parliament on 23 July and finally passed on 7 August includes several changes, the most important of which are the following:
- the period within which employers must report the conclusion of contracts for "atypical" forms of employment to the Labour Inspectorate is extended from eight to 15 days;
- it is no longer possible to conclude individual contracts for split work schedules;
- provision is made for the authorities to check to determine whether announcements by state-run undertakings of hiring of seasonal part-time workers are legal;
- the possibility of introducing working time flexibility is extended to enterprises employing between five and 20 workers;
- the institution of extended working hours is retained, but outside the implementation period of working time management;
- in "local employment agreements", the agreement of the competent Labour Centre is required in cases where pay is reduced to the level of the minimum wages set out in the agreement concluded by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE); and
- medical and pharmaceutical coverage by the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) is made statutory for unemployed persons up to 29 years of age.
Although the Government contends that the final bill is the result of a balance between the primary demand of management - labour market flexibility - and one of the primary demands of labour - worker security - both sides retain their initial points of disagreement and neither appears satisfied by the final result. Public opinion is particularly critical of the Government, because an issue of such decisive importance as the industrial relations bill was passed by Parliament during the summer, when the majority of workers were absent. It was then, from this viewpoint, presented as a "new social contract", ignoring the opposition of workers' and employers' bodies as a whole.