Tensions at FAGE

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Industrial relations at the Greek dairy products firms FAGE have been tense for some years, with trade unions alleging bad employment practices and anti-union pressure. The tension heightened in early 2000, following a number of job losses, and in February, at the unions' request, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security, held a tripartite meeting on the issue.

On 16 February 2000, a tripartite meeting was organised by the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security on the issue of recent redundancies at the dairy products company FAGE SA. Representatives of the company and the company-level trade union at FAGE were present at the meeting, along with the presidents of the Federation of Dairy Foods and Beverages Workers, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) and the Athens Labour Centre (EKA).

In a press release issued on 1 February, EKA alleged that wrongful changes in employment relationships, arbitrary changes between jobs involving different skills, threats of dismissal and notification of dismissal to anyone expressing displeasure with the company's decisions are all standard practice at FAGE. GSEE claimed that for years there has been a climate of intimidation and pressure on workers not to join the company-level union. As a result, out of a total of about 950 workers, union membership has fallen from around 450 in recent years to 70 at present. The trade union at FAGE states that it is common for workers to join the union and a short time later ask to leave, under pressure from management. There have, it is alleged, even been dismissals of active union officials and adverse changes in their employment relationships.

To the problems of alleged intimidation on the part of management and adverse changes in employment relationships has now been added the problem of redundancies due to restructuring and reorganisation in the sales department, involving outsourcing and contracting out. Since December 1999, the company has made redundant 19 workers who have worked for the company for many years, at the same time that it was hiring new workers.

The company-level union at FAGE, together with GSEE and EKA, asked the Deputy Minister of Labour to intervene at once to hold a tripartite meeting at the Ministry, in order to address the problems of job losses, adverse changes in employment relationships and alleged intimidation by management at FAGE. At the meeting held on 16 February, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security agreed to the proposal of the GSEE president that management retract the last two dismissals, and noted that such a move would be a token of a good climate for dialogue, with a view to relaxing the tension between the two sides. However, to date there have been no positive developments and the company has not entered into dialogue with the union.

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