National General Collective Agreement signed for 2000-2001
After four months of bargaining, Greece's new National General Collective Agreement was signed at the end of May 2000. The agreement will be in force for the two-year period, 2000-1, and provides for minimum pay increases and measures in areas such as annual leave, maternity leave and social insurance.
On 23 May 2000, representatives of the General Confederation of Greek Labour (GSEE), the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Trades (GSEVEE), and the Federation of Greek Traders' Associations (ESEE) - after stating that payment of social security contributions for the lowest paid workers will be covered by the state budget without affecting the content of the negotiations GR0005171N) - signed the new two-year National General Collective Agreement (EGSSE) for 2000-1, following four months of talks.
The content of the agreement concerns percentage increases in minimum wages and salaries, as well as regulations on other issues relating to terms and conditions of employment and social insurance. Regarding workers' pay, the agreement provides for: a 2% increase for the first half of 2000; 1.5% for the second half of 2000; 1.8% for the first half of 2001; and 1.5% for the second half of 2001. In the event that there is an unforeseen increase in inflation in 2001, the EGSSE provides for payment of a corrective sum.
The main non-pay provisions concern annual paid leave, maternity leave, leave for adoptive parents, coverage by the Account for Employment and Vocational Training (LAEK) of the social insurance contributions of older long-term unemployed people, insurance and pensions issues, and profit-sharing.
Starting in January 2000, the length-of-service requirement, with the same or different employers, for entitlement to a fifth week of annual paid leave has been reduced from 12 and 14 years, depending on circumstances, to 10 and 12 years. The total length of maternity leave is increased to 17 weeks, through granting one additional week of leave after confinement. In addition, the current entitlement of mothers or fathers to interrupt the working day, arrive late or leave early is extended to adoptive parents of children up to six years of age.
Article 12 of the new EGSSE finalises the unanimous decision of the social partners that the remaining social security contributions of long-term unemployed people approaching retirement age should be covered by the LAEK. It has also been decided to ask the government and political parties to provide legislative regulation of this decision, thus ensuring its implementation.
The social partners have agreed on the following points regarding social insurance and pensions:
- thoroughgoing reorganisation of the social insurance system following a dialogue with the social partners regarding unification of similar main pension funds;
- restoration of the majority held by representatives of social partners on the administrative councils of the social insurance funds,
- establishment of a system of capitalisation and distribution ("pay as you go") elements in social insurance;
- implementation of tripartite funding of social insurance, with workers paying two-ninths, the state paying three-ninths and employers paying four-ninths;
- effective regulation of the debts of the social insurance funds;
- an effective crackdown on social insurance contribution evasion and illegal or uninsured employment of Greek and foreign workers;
- increases in minimum pensions comparable with the pay increases awarded under the EGSSE;
- unification of the various branches of healthcare or their transfer to a different body; and
- use of information media in the administration and operation of social insurance, with a parallel development of a policy for employees and their continuing training.
According to Article 15 of the new EGSSE, the contracting parties regard as positive the reinforcement of the idea of employee profit-sharing in the form of shares or distribution of part of a company's profits. These benefits will not be counted as part of the legal pay based on company-level, sectoral-level or occupation-based agreements or the EGSSE.
In his remarks made after conclusion of bargaining, the president of GSEE expressed the confederation's satisfaction with the new agreement, and stressed that: "with a low inflation rate, we have achieved pay increases of over 50% of the inflation rate, for the first time calculations are made on the basis of average annual inflation and profit-sharing is made statutory. This is the biggest increase we have concluded in recent years, and in combination with the previous EGSSEs from 1994 on, we are gradually moving towards real convergence with average incomes of workers in the EU. In the present circumstances our goal is to approach average European levels, to further social convergence and social cohesion."
However, the deputy president of GSEE said that the new EGSSE provides for low percentage increases for 2000 and 2001, and that it puts off indefinitely important issues such as the 35-hour working week and the restriction of flexible labour relations. He also stated that the results of the new EGSSE fall far short both of workers' needs and of the potential of the trade union movement.