Special agreement on temporary closure of Athens Hilton
In November 2001, an innovative agreement was reached by management and workers' representatives at the Athens Hilton hotel, which will be temporarily closed for renovations until 2003. The agreement provides for a continued employment relationship, with a degree of wage compensation, for many of the hotel's employees.
On 8 November 2001, following nearly two months of discussions, workers' representatives and management at the Hilton hotel in Athens reached a 'special agreement' in view of the temporary interruption of the hotel's operations.
The agreement was signed by the general manager and human resources manager of the Athens Hilton, the general manager and financial services manager of Ioniki Hotel Enterprises, and the president and general secretary of the Athens Hilton Employees' Association primary trade union organisation. The deal concerns employment relationships in the light of the suspension of operations at the hotel for the period between 1 November 2001 and the completion of renovation work - the renovation crew is expected to complete work in the first half of 2003.
According to the agreement, both employers and workers realise that, after more than 38 years of continuous operation, renovation work must be carried out at the hotel to bring it up to the high standards set for Hilton hotels around the world. In this context, it is the common wish of both sides not to upset the relations between workers and management and to preserve the admirable climate of cooperation between them during the time that operation is suspended until renovation work has been completed and the hotel goes back into operation.
Under the agreement, Hilton and Ioniki management undertake to investigate the possibility of transferring employees to other hotels run by Hilton in Greece. If feasible, staff will be employed in subsidised short-time work, and the selection of individuals to work from time to time on the Athens worksite or in various Hilton/Ioniki services will be made at the companies' absolute discretion and in accordance with their needs.
Employees will be temporarily laid off for the periods from 1 November 2001 to 31 December 2001, from 1 January 2002 to 31 March 2002 and from 1 January 2003 to 31 March 2003. For the period between 1 April 2002 and 31 December 2002 and in the event that the renovation work is not completed by 31 March 2003, from 1 April 2003 until final completion of renovation work and the reopening of the hotel, relations between Ioniki and the employees will be regulated in accordance with the following rules:
- for the time that employees are laid off, they will receive half the pay they would have received were they in full employment, over and above the allowance they will receive from the Labour Force Employment Organisation (OAED);
- for the time that employees do not provide their services to Ioniki or are not on call, they will receive 78% of the pay they would have received were they in full employment; and
- the pay of employees during this period will be calculated on the basis of their average regular monthly pay for full employment, which they received in the months of September and October 2001.
The agreement also provides that:
- only during 2002, when the hotel will be closed due to renovation work, employees will receive pay increases at a rate of 2% on the contractually set salary for the month of October 2001. When the hotel comes back into operation, all labour issues, including employees' pay increases, will be decided in accordance with the practice pursued by the Hilton to date;
- for as long as the employees' restaurant at the Hilton remains closed and employees do not have their meals there, employees will be offered the amount of EUR 29.35 per month. This sum will be paid in addition to the sums received by employees during the time they are laid off. This sum has been incorporated in, and is included in, the rate of 78% on employees' pay for the remaining period until final completion of renovation work and reopening of the hotel;
- in accordance with present circumstances and on the condition that there is no unforeseen change in circumstances, Hilton/Ioniki believe that it is not necessary to make use of an existing provision allowing a 2% monthly dismissal rate for staff, for the period from 1 April 2002 until the hotel again becomes fully operational. This is conditional upon acceptance by all employees of the new agreement. Hilton/Ioniki expressly state that they reserve the right to terminate employment contracts with any employees who violate their contractual obligations; and
- Ioniki retains the right the unilaterally to discontinue lay-offs at any time by declaration to a single employee, some of the employees or all of the employees, at its absolute discretion. In addition, during the time that renovation work is being carried out, it retains the right unilaterally to call on one, some or all of those employees not providing their services, in accordance with the abovementioned provisions, and to employ them at the worksite or in other services/departments, provided that it deems such a possibility to exist.
This special agreement refers to about 250 employees out of a total of 400 employed until recently by the Athens Hilton in permanent, full-time employment relationships. The rest of the employees, about 150 in number, have terminated their employment relationship with the undertaking by accepting voluntary retirement plans regarded as favourable to the employees both by the trade union and by management.
The Athens Hilton Employees' Association states, however, that these plans did not achieve their initial goal, since the majority of the employees who chose retirement were younger people. Overall, the union regards the agreement as particularly satisfactory, especially in conditions of high unemployment and job insecurity such as those existing at present. It also states that the new agreement meets fully the initial, and perhaps most important, demand of the employees - the preservation of the employment relationship for the whole time that the hotel will remain closed.
As the employees' union has noted, the Athens Hilton agreement was concluded at an adverse time for workers: the rate of unemployment in the Athens area stands at around 12% (compared with 10% in the country as a whole). In these conditions, the agreement should be considered satisfactory for the employees. In addition, it is a reference point and example of good practice for employees in other hotels which are about to suspend operations. In this context, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has made relevant recommendations to the management of the Grande Bretagne Hotel, which is also suspending operations for about two years in view of the 2004 Olympic Games. Other hotels will be doing the same. (Eva Soumeli, INE/GSEE-ADEDY)