Joint committee studies reduction of working time
At the end of July 1999, a second bargaining session was held between representatives of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) and of employers' organisations, for the purpose of discussing a reduction of the working week to 35 hours without loss of pay. The parties agreed to set up a joint committee to consider the matter.
Following an invitation from the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) (GR9901110N), a second bargaining session was held on 29 July 1999 between representatives of the executives of GSEE, the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), the National Confederation of Greek Traders (ESEE) and the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEVEE), at the latter's offices, on the subject of reducing the working week to 35 hours without loss of pay. No decisions had been taken at the first meeting, which took place on 15 March 1999.
In a joint communiqué issued following the July meeting, the employers' organisations stated that they had entered into the dialogue on this issue out of a belief that real respect for the institution of collective bargaining is important, and that through collective bargaining all views on the very important issue of the 35-hour week had been aired in a straightforward manner. During the negotiations, the two sides remained adamant in their positions, and reiterated their arguments regarding reduction of working time (GR9902114N and GR9712145F). However, as also pointed out in the joint communiqué, because it is the intention of both sides to seek solutions through a synthesis of views, the sides have agreed to set up a joint committee charged with completing its work before the end of November 1999, so that its conclusions can be taken into consideration in negotiations on the new National General Collective Agreement early in 2000. The committee's task will to assess the impact of reducing the working week to 35 hours without loss of pay on: employment; the investment climate; the fiscal progress of private enterprises; productivity; and in general on the competitiveness of the Greek economy. The committee will also consider statutory measures to compensate for potential negative impacts, and will take the following new conditions into account:
- the European experience in countries where working time has already reduced (Germany, Denmark, UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium) and in particular in countries where moves towards the introduction of the 35-hour week have been gradual and universal (France and Italy);
- the Greek experience in banks (GR9906135F), public utilities and services, and certain capital-intensive private enterprises;
- the possibility of linking the measure with a framework of policies for restoring ailing small and medium-sized enterprises to health and rationalising development incentives for supporting investments, which could be accompanied by reduction of working time and could create or save jobs;
- the effects on productivity of a possible generalised or gradual introduction of the 35-hour week, following collective agreements at the branch, local or company level (eg in oil companies, where wages constitute a small part of total production costs, or in high-profit sectors);
- linkage of the 35-hour week to a development policy for achieving high rates of GDP and investment growth;
- the relationship of the 35-hour week to the new institutional framework for labour relations set out in Law 2639/1998 (GR9808187N); and
- linkage of the 35-hour week with policies and measures on making creative use of free time.