Thematic feature - posted workers
This article examines the Greek situation, as of June 2003, with regard to: legislation and collective bargaining on the pay and conditions of posted workers (ie workers from one EU Member State posted by their employer to work in another); the number of such posted workers; and the views of the social partners and government on the issue.
EU Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services seeks to avoid 'social dumping' by ensuring that a minimum set of rights is guaranteed for workers posted by their employer to work in another country. The basic principle is that the working conditions and pay in effect in a Member State should be applicable both to workers from that State, and those from other EU countries posted to work there. The Directive covers undertakings established in a Member State, which, in the framework of the transnational provision of services, post workers to the territory of another Member State.
The Directive establishes a core of essential regulations aimed at ensuring employees' minimum protection in the country in which their work is performed. It guarantees the application of the host country's statutory and regulatory provisions relating to:
- maximum work periods and minimum rest periods;
- minimum paid annual holidays;
- minimum rates of pay, including overtime rates (excluding supplementary occupational retirement pension schemes);
- the conditions of hiring-out of workers, in particular the supply of workers by temporary employment agencies;
- health, safety and hygiene at work;
- protective measures with regard to the terms and conditions of employment of pregnant women or women who have recently given birth, of children and of young people; and
- equality of treatment between men and women and other provisions on non-discrimination.
As well as these generally applicable statutory and regulatory provisions, a Member State's collectively agreed provisions on these issues must also be applied to workers in the construction sector (where these are based on 'collective agreements or arbitration awards which have been declared universally applicable').
The Directive allows for a number of exceptions to all or some of these 'minimum provisions' for: the crew of merchant ships; staff involved in the initial assembly and/or first installation of equipment; postings lasting less than a month; and where 'the amount of work to be done is not significant'. The Member States were obliged to transpose the Directive by 16 December 1999.
In 1999, the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) conducted a comparative study on posted workers and the implementation of the Directive. In June 2003, the EIRO national centres in each EU Member State (plus Norway), have updated the basic information in the earlier comparative study, four years on, in response to a questionnaire. The Greek responses are set out below (along with the questions asked).
What changes were made to national legislation in your country in order to implement the Directive? And have there been any further changes to the relevant legislation since then?
Please outline very briefly the current legal position of posted workers in your country - are they covered by specific or general employment legislation, what is their position with regard to social security (are they covered under the social security system in their country of origin or the host country?) etc. Also, have any specific measures been taken to prevent abuses arising from the posting of temporary agency workers (eg an agency hiring temporary workers through a subsidiary in a low labour cost country and sending them to work for a user company in a higher labour cost country)?
The EU posted workers Directive was transposed by Presidential Decree, a long time after the December 1999 deadline for implementation. Presidential Decree No. 219/2000 on 'measures for the protection of workers posted to perform temporary work in Greek territory, in the context of international provision of services' was issued on 31 August 2000. This Decree, which came into effect upon its publication in the Government Gazette, transposes the entire content of the relevant Directive into national law. It is regarded as being fully in line with the spirit and the letter of the Directive, and apart from it there are no other relevant national regulations on the issue of posted workers
The workers affected
Please provide the latest figures available on the number of employees who are posted from your country to other EU Member States.
Please provide similar figures, if available, for employees posted to your country from other EU Member States.
With regard to the numbers of workers posted to Greece from other EU Member States and vice-versa, there are no available data, either official or unofficial . The competent authorities, and in particular the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the National Statistical Service of Greece (ESYE), keep no records of data concerning posted workers. In accordance with the provisions on monitoring laid down in the 2000 Presidential Decree implementing the Directive (Article 5), companies falling within its scope are obliged, before posting begins and regardless of its duration, to submit all the relevant documents to the competent authorities of the Labour Inspectorate. However, none of the Labour Inspectorate’s progress reports in recent years has given data on the number of workers affected. As regards the unofficial picture of the phenomenon, the sectors of economic activity where posting seems to be most frequent, such as the banks and construction, have no available data.
Workers in the construction industry
The EU Directive, although of general application, is aimed particularly at workers in the construction industry (building and public works), in which discrepancies between practice and legal standards are often observed. Has any special action been taken by the social partners or the state to address the situation of posted workers in this industry?
The Directive and its implementation in Greece do not appear to be of particular concern to the social partners in the construction sector. For example, the Construction Workers’ Federation was reportedly until quite recently not even aware of this Directive.
The positions of the social partners and government
Please outline the stances adopted by the social partners and the public authorities/government on this issue. Particular attention should be given to unions and employers in the construction industry.
Both before and after the harmonisation of national law with the posted workers Directive, neither the trade unions nor the employers' organisations have produced an opinion on this specific issue. However, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) sees the relevant Presidential Decree as a positive step, at least as far as ensuring minimum labour and social insurance rights for workers posted by EU companies is concerned. From the employer side, the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) is in favour of the Directive and its transposition into Greek law because it 'favours the free movement of workers'. (Eva Soumeli, INE-GSEE)