2001 Annual Review for Greece
This record reviews 2001's main developments in industrial relations in Greece.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Panelino Socialistiko Kinima, PASOK) government, elected in April 2000 for a second consecutive four-year term and headed by Prime Minister Konstantinos Simitis, remained in power during 2001.
As in 2000 (GR0012196F) and 1999 (GR9912160F), during 2001 collective bargaining remained largely centralised. The table below shows the number of collective agreements (SSEs) concluded in 2000 and 2001 at the various levels, and the number of arbitration agreements (DAs) issued by the Mediation and Arbitration Service (OMED), based on official data from the pay directorate of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. It should be noted that the 2001 data are provisional, since around 10% of all collective agreements were still outstanding at the end of the year.
Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
As has traditionally been the case in Greece (GR9712159F), financial issues, and especially pay-related issues, were predominant during collective bargaining in 2001. Under the terms of the National General Collective Agreement for 2000-1 (GR0006175N), the nominal increase in minimum basic pay for 2000 was 4.2%. However, the real increase in basic pay, taking inflation into account, was 0.97%. The respective figures for 2001 were 3.3% and –0.09%. However, on the basis of the National General Collective Agreement for 2000-1, a corrective sum of 1.1% was to be awarded in January 2002, so that the real increase in basic pay for 2001 was one percentage point higher than the consumer prices index at average levels.
At sectoral level, the most important collective agreements signed during 2001 were in the banking sector (GR0107113N) and telecommunications (GR0107114N). In both these cases, pay-related issues were predominant: the one-year banking sector deal increased basic pay and allowances by 4.2%; while the telecommunications agreement provided for a pay increase of 3.3% over 2001-2, as well as a variety of new and improved benefits and allowances.
According to official data from the National Statistical Service of Greece (ESYE), average contractual working hours are 40 per week, and average actual working time for people employed full time (over 35 hours per week) was 44.9 hours a week in 2000 (the 2001 figure is not yet available at the time of writing).
In the area of working time and working time flexibility in particular, the most important change during 2001 involved the start of the full implementation of Law 2874/2000 regarding 'Employment regulations and other provisions' in April 2001 (GR0104104N). This law seeks to encourage the organisation of working time on an annual basis through collective agreements. Since legislative regulations on working time arrangements have until recently remained effectively inoperative, enterprise-level collective bargaining on this subject has been limited in scope. According to data available from the Ministry of Labour up to the summer of 2001, following the implementation of the relevant law, only four agreements on flexible working time arrangements had been signed. As a whole, however, the data available to date allow no quantitative and/or qualitative analyses of the development of flexible working time arrangements. Nor is it possible to evaluate the implementation of the new legislative framework, especially with regard to the effects that the increased overtime costs implied by the new law will have on employment.
In terms of individual agreements, there was little new in 2001. The pilot implementation of a 35-hour working week without loss of pay, as provided for in the 1999-2000 enterprise-level collective agreement (GR9906136N) for the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), was never put into practice, and in the framework of the company's new agreement for 2001-2 (GR0107114N) reduction of working time was not a subject of bargaining.
Job security and training/skills development
Specialised topics such as job security, as well as training matters, are still not central issues in collective bargaining. These are also issues that have not been researched by the competent bodies. As a result, it is not possible to evaluate qualitatively the development of collective bargaining in Greece during 2001; this was also true in 2000 (GR0012196F).
With regard to equal pay for women and men, although the legal framework is relatively complete, women lag far behind men. According to data from ESYE for 2000, women's average hourly pay stands at 76.2% of that of men. The main reason that this pay gap continues to exist is a failure to link the principle of pay equality with collective agreements (TN0201101S).
In June 2001, a 'global agreement' was signed at the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) by company management, Union Network International (UNI) - which brings together telecommunications workers' trade unions worldwide - and the Federation of OTE Workers (OME-OTE) - which represents some 90% of OTE's Greek workforce. The agreement is based on the fundamental workers' rights set out in a number of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, and its main objective is to determine an operational code of conduct for the parties to the agreement, in order to implement in practice these agreed principles. This agreement was the first such accord in a Greek-based multinational.
The main legislative developments during 2001 were as follows:
- implementation of Law 2874/2000 on 'Employment regulations and other provisions' (GR0104104N). In addition to working time arrangements (see above under 'Working time'), this law regulates a range of important issues relating to labour relations, such as overtime, redundancies and matters involving leave;
- the introduction of a new legislative framework on temporary employment agencies, which for the first time lays down specific rules on the establishment, operation and obligations of agencies and the employment rights of temporary agency workers. These measures were included in a new law on the restructuring of the Labour Force Employment Organisation (OAED) - the public body responsible for Greek employment policy and services - and other provisions, which was passed by parliament in October 2001 (GR0111101F); and
- a number of new developments in the area of equality of opportunity for women and men (which took place during the second half of 2000 and the first half of 2001). Law 2839/2000 (GR0108119F) on 'Regulation of matters regarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Public Administration and Decentralisation and other provisions' introduced a gender quota system in the public sector's various governing councils, administrative boards and collective bodies. Further, an amendment of Article 116 of the Constitution introduced in April 2001 allows for positive action in promoting equality between men and women. Finally, a March 2001 decision of the Supreme Special Court ruled that family allowances could be paid to both spouses (GR0103102N). This decision, of particular importance at national level, relates exclusively to workers in the public sector, and represented the culmination of a long campaign by workers and trade unions (GR9911156F).
The organisation and role of the social partners
During 2001 both the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) and the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) held conferences, but no decisions were taken regarding changes in their organisation. GSEE deferred issues regarding its organisation and role to an organisational conference planned for autumn 2002.
It is not possible to assess clearly the situation regarding industrial action in Greece during 2001. As was the case for 2000 (GR0012196F), the main reason is the total lack of data on the number of strikes; in addition, the data for the three previous years are incomplete (GR9912160F). However, from the isolated cases of major strikes during the year, it would appear that the increase in social tensions observed in 2000 continued during 2001. A 24-hour national general strike in April 2001 was a prominent example of the tension that was prevalent (GR0105108N). This strike, with participation rates as high as 100% in many sectors, was held in opposition to government proposals to reform the social insurance system. A further one-day strike was held in May (GR0106111N).
With reference to the April general strike, many observers maintained that GSEE and ADEDY's successful action on an issue such as social security, which unites workers, increased the popularity of unions and strengthened the trade union movement in general. However, research into workers' views on trade unions and employment, conducted on behalf of GSEE and published in January 2001 (GR0101197F), found that only 15% of respondents considered strike action to be the most suitable means of tackling labour problems. The majority (59.7% of the respondents) considered the most suitable way of resolving labour disputes to be dialogue between workers and management.
A noteworthy company-level strike during 2001 was that organised against the privatisation of Hellenic Petroleum in July (GR0108118N).
National Action Plan (NAP) for employment
As in 2000, in 2001 the main criticism levelled against the Greek NAP by both employers' organisations and unions concerned the limited participation of the social partners at both the planning stage and the implementation stage, as well as an inability to monitor the policies being implemented (GR0012196F). However, special meetings held in March 2001 between experts working with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, unions and employers' organisations were characterised as a positive step. Representatives of all bodies took part in the meetings held, following an appeal from the government, and presented positions and proposals which were considered to be well thought-out. Nevertheless the dialogue was judged by the social partners to be ineffective, on the one hand due to its short duration and on the other due to inadequate evaluation of the results to date on the part of the Ministry. In addition, both employers' associations and unions believe that, overall, the 2001 NAP is a unilateral expression of government positions and proposals (GR0104107F).
During 2001, the only instance of restructuring which attracted public interest involved the proposed merger between the National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank. After announcing the merger decision on 1 November 2001, the boards of directors of the two banks restricted themselves to publicising a few initial data regarding the proposal. Issues involving employment and labour relations in the two banks were not touched upon, although the Greek Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) submitted on 9 November an initial framework of positions, including a primary demand for protection of jobs and labour rights (GR0112123N). The merger plan was subsequently abandoned.
As a whole, it is worth noting that the company restructuring that has taken place in Greece to date has not been discussed within the collective bargaining framework. Regulation of issues that have arisen in relation to the repercussions of restructuring is derived from national and EU legislation centred on provisions regarding redundancies and company transfers and takeovers.
No significant developments took place in 2001 with regard to the procedures and mechanisms for worker information, consultation and participation, or the development of European Works Councils and their role. The EU European Company Statute and its employee involvement provisions (adopted in October 2001 - EU0110203N) do not appear so far to have been the subject of dialogue between the social partners at any level.
New forms of work
The most important development relating to new forms of work during 2001 was the adoption of Law 2956/2001 on 'Restructuring of the OAED and other provisions', which among other measures (see above under 'Legislative developments'), regulates temporary agency work and in particular the operation of temporary employment agencies (GR0111101F).
Overall, according to the available data, 'non-permanent' employment in Greece has grown significantly, and now represents 13.1% of total employment (15.7% of women and 11.5% of men). With the growth of the phenomenon of non-permanent employment, the existing institutional framework is seen as inadequate, and coupled with the deficiency of mechanisms to monitor labour legislation, it is often associated with the violation of labour rights. In this framework, the adoption of Law 2956/2001 on temporary employment agencies is considered to be of particular significance. The new regulatory framework seeks to strengthen the labour rights of temporary agency workers in a way which is also satisfactory to unions. However, criticism of certain regulations remains (GR0102198N).
A new National General Collective Agreement will be negotiated during 2002. In pay terms, this is of particular interest, as it will be the first agreement negotiated in euros (following the introduction of euro notes and coins in January 2002) and will be centred around the unions' demand for real convergence of wages and salaries with EU averages (GR0201146N). GSEE is also again demanding a reduction in the working week to 35 hours without loss of pay, as a measure to combat unemployment. With regard to the content of labour relations, the restricted implementation of Law 2874/2000 as far as flexible working time arrangements are concerned (see above under 'Working time'), along with increased overtime costs, may well cause employers to press for new legislative regulations.