Nationwide construction workers' strike

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On 17 March 1999, a well-supported one-day nationwide strike was held by trade unions representing Greek construction workers. The unions' demands centred on the calculation of social insurance contributions, violations of labour legislation and housing issues.

The Federation of Construction Workers and Related Occupations called a one-day nationwide strike on 17 March 1999, in which all the trade unions representing workers in construction, related occupations and technical works took part, with the aim of immediate furtherance of the demands of the sector's workers. The action brought work to a halt on most building sites and other worksites. At strike meetings held at central points throughout Greece, union representatives referred to the sector's problems and to union activity, mainly on large worksites. The main demands presented by the construction workers' federation concerned the calculation of workers' and employers' social insurance contributions, the problem of violations of labour legislation and various housing issues.

With regard to calculation of insurance contributions, particular reference was made to the new insurance Law 2676/1999, which reduces the factor used to calculate contributions for construction works (per square metre of the site) to 1-1.35, with the unions calling for a reinstatement of factors of 1-1.5. As concerns violation of labour legislation, unions demanded that the Labour Inspectorates take action and make a commitment to effective measures and controls relating to uninsured labour and observance of health and safety measures. On housing issues, the main demands concerned: monitoring of profits and prices throughout the whole cycle of production in the building and construction sector; ensuring that the Workers' Housing Organisation (OEK) has the financial resources for continued provision of housing in accordance with existing needs; and improving the terms of housing loans granted. Other demands concerned: lowering the retirement age from 60 to 55; increasing pensions and wages; and taking radical steps to combat unemployment - such as steady employment and strike pay, reduced taxation on housing and the introduction of the 35-hour working week without loss of pay.

On the employers' side, the Panhellenic Federation of Construction and Building Enterprises and its local associations have described the new measures (Law 2676/1999) reducing insurance contributions in respect of construction workers by 10% as inadequate and are asking for a further reduction. From the government side, the Deputy Minister of Labour rejected the trade unions' demand regarding insurance contributions, and avoided answering their demands on other insurance issues.

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