Greece: Posted workers

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Posted workers,
  • Working conditions,
  • Industrial relations,
  • Published on: 05 October 2010



About
Country:
Greece
Author:
Sofia Lampousaki
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Transnational posting of workers has not until recently been an issue of major interest in Greece. The EU posted workers Directive was transposed by Presidential Decree No. 219/2000, which repeats almost literally the Directive, but apart from that there are no specific regulations. Also, in spite of the fact that the Presidential Decree gives relevant competency to the Ministry of Labour and the Corps of Labour Inspectors, there are no official data available concerning posted workers. However, the trade unions have been unofficially monitoring the phenomenon and are trying to raise attention to it. The protocol for cooperation signed between the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the Greek General Confederation of Labour is of special interest. It plans the coordination of trade union action with the aim to defend the trade union rights, which are threatened by increased labour mobility.

QUESTIONNAIRE

1. Posted workers: basic facts

1.1 Please provide basic data on the workers posted in your country:

There are no official or unofficial data available on the number of workers posted to Greece from the other EU Member States and vice-versa. The competent authorities, and in particular the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (Υπουργείο Απασχόλησης και Κοινωνικής Προστασίας, YPAKP) and the Corps of Labour Inspectors (Σώμα Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας, ΣΕΠΕ), were not able to provide data concerning posted workers.

However, according to information from union representatives, the phenomenon of posting of workers to Greece in the framework of transnational provision of services is mainly encountered in public works, in the construction sector, in the petroleum products sector, in shipping and in the sector of hotels\restaurants. In any case the precise extent of the phenomenon is not known.

1.2 Are there any information on the number (by gender) and distribution across sectors of workers posted to other countries by domestic companies? If yes, please provide details.

No such data is available as yet.

1.3 Are there any information on trade union affiliation and collective bargaining coverage of workers posted to your countries, including affiliation to foreign unions and coverage by foreign collective agreements, in addition and beyond the minimum requirements set by legislation? If yes, please provide details.

No such information has been found as yet.

1.4 Are there any information on trade union affiliation and collective bargaining coverage of workers posted to other countries by domestic firms? If yes, please provide details.

On 5 February 2009, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (Конфедерация на независимите синдикати в България, CITUB) and the Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπονδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE) signed a protocol for cooperation in Athens, aiming to achieve better representation of trade union rights. Both confederations recognise the need to strengthen international trade union cooperation and offer a package of international trade union services, consultancy and cross-border recognition of membership for protection of the rights and interests of their members.

Guided by the acknowledged need to develop industrial relations systems in Bulgaria and Greece with a view to harmonisation with European policies and good practices, the leaderships of CITUB and GSEE have agreed to combine efforts and use all available means for organising joint activities in a range of areas. Both confederations thus agree to:

  • plan and coordinate joint trade union actions related to the workers of both countries, develop common initiatives in the broader Balkan region in order to strengthen solidarity among trade union organisations and organise a wide array of joint trade union activities;
  • encourage labour mobility so that workers can find a job in either country and participate in the respective trade union organisations of the country in which they work, with a view to better defending their trade union rights;
  • prepare for the establishment of cross-border consultancy infrastructure and information centres, which will be coordinated by a Joint Council comprising CITUB and GSEE representatives;
  • recognise the importance of cooperation and the development of bilateral relations and carry out common actions in the field of research, vocational training and trade union education;
  • promote actions to develop common projects. They will join efforts in planning, coordinating and carrying out training workshops and conferences on subjects of common interest;
  • develop combined actions to support the technological infrastructure of the trade union research bodies in Bulgaria and Greece (BG0902029I).

1.5 Please refer the main content and results of major studies on posted workers (either in-coming or out-going), both quantitative and qualitative, which have been carried out in your country.

There are no such studies available as yet.

2. Regulation on posted workers

2.1 Please provide details on the current legislative framework for posted workers in your country:

a) Reference to the law adopting the posted workers directive: number, date, and link to the text, if available, in English;

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" (available only in Greek) was issued on 31 August 2000. Apart from that there are no other relevant national regulations on the issue of posted workers.

b) A brief account of any amendments or integrations introduced after the initial adoption;

There were no amendments or integrations after the initial adoption.

c) A description of the current legal framework regarding posted workers, especially:

- as regards the way employment conditions are enforced, as required by art. 3.1. of the Directive (see the briefing note for the text of the article):

i. by law, regulation or administrative provision, and/or

ii. by collective agreements or arbitration awards which have been declared universally applicable;

According to Presidential Decree No. 219/2000, undertakings which post workers in the territory of Greece must guarantee, irrespective of the law applicable to the employment relationship, the terms and conditions of employment stipulated by:

  • Greek employment policy (laws, decrees, ministerial decisions),
  • the national general labour collective agreement which is generally applicable by law as well as
  • the, each time existing, labour collective agreements or arbitration awards which are generally applicable in accordance with Article 11 of the Law 1876/1990 “Free collective bargaining and other provisions”(27/A),

- whether the law requires the application to posted workers of:

i. the whole system of labour law or only minimum terms expressly identified with reference to the list in art. 3.1 (see the briefing note for the text of the article).

ii. the whole content of collective agreements or arbitration awards which have been declared universally applicable or only minimum terms expressly identified with reference to the list in art. 3.1 (see the briefing note for the text of the article).

The Presidential Decree No. 219/2000 requires the application of only minimum terms expressly identified with reference to the list in art. 3.1. (i.e. concerning: a) maximum work periods and minimum rest periods b) minimum paid annual leave c) minimum wages, within the meaning of par.2 of the present article d) protection of children and of young people at work e) protection of pregnant women or women who have recently given birth f) protection of health, safety and hygiene at work g) equality of treatment between men and women h) promotion of non- discrimination mainly due to: racial or national origin, colour, language, physical or mental illness on condition that workers are clearly capable of carrying out their duties, social origin, part-time work, accession or not to a trade union, political or religious beliefs I) the position of workers being at the disposal of a user undertaking by temporary employment agency or by undertakings or hiring- out agencies).

For the purposes of implementing this Presidential Decree, as minimum wages are considered gross wages –determined by Greek labour law (acts, decrees, ministerial decisions), by national general labour collective agreement which has been declared generally obligatory as well as by the each time existing labour collective agreements or arbitration awards which have also been declared generally obligatory – which include the minimum wage, additional allowances provided for by law, including payments and additional increases for overtime work. Contributions to supplementary retirement schemes and relevant benefits are not included in the minimum rates of wage. Similarly, allowances paid to posted workers due to the posting, paid in reimbursement of expenditure actually incurred on account of the posting, such as expenditure on travel, accommodation or lodging.

Exceptions: The above mentioned provisions which refer to the minimum paid annual leave and the minimum rates of wage do not apply in the cases of: initial assembly and /or first installation of goods, where this is an integral part of a contract for the supply of goods and necessary for taking the goods supplied into use and carried out by the skilled and/or specialised workers of the supplying undertaking, if the period of posting does not exceed eight days. The above mentioned exception does not apply to activities in the field of constructions regarding building, restoration, regular maintenance, transformation or demolition of buildings and specifically: excavation, earthmoving, actual building work, assembly and dismantling of prefabricated elements, fitting out, installation, alteration, renovation, repair, dismantling, demolition, maintenance, painting, cleaning work, improvements.

The length of the posting must be calculated on the basis of a reference period of one year from the beginning of the posting. For the purpose of such calculations, account shall be taken of any previous periods for which a posted worker has filled the post.

The above mentioned provisions shall not prevent application of terms and conditions of employment, which are more favourable to posted workers.

- when the employment conditions are set by collective agreements or arbitration awards, please specify which is the legal instrument which make them universally applicable:

i. according to the law. Please specify the law reference number and year and whether it includes certain requirements for universal application. In this latter case, please specify such requirements.

ii. according to a ministerial decree. Please specify which minister or political authority can issue the decree and whether certain requirements are needed. In this latter case, please specify such requirements.

iii. according to rules on mandatory representation which make collective agreements (in practice) universally applicable.

According to Law 1876/1990 “Free collective bargaining and other provisions” (27/A), the Minister of Labour, in a decision issued with the consent of the Supreme Labour Council, may extend and declare universally mandatory for all workers a sectoral or occupation-based collective labour agreement which is already binding on employers employing 51% of workers in the sector or the occupation. Such an extension may also be requested by a competent collective association of workers or employers in an application submitted to the Minister of Labour.

- when the employment conditions are set by collective agreements, please specify which collective agreements are relevant:

i. intersectoral or sectoral. Please provide examples.

ii. national or territorial. Please provide examples.

In the Greek system of collective bargaining, the types of collective labour agreements are the national general collective labour agreement, which is universally applicable by law, the sectoral and occupation-based agreements, which may be declared universally mandatory (in accordance with the provisions of Law 1876/1990, as stated above) and enterprise-level agreements. The national general collective labour agreement is applicable in all cases. If a sectoral agreement exists alongside an occupation-based agreement, the sectoral agreement takes precedence. Therefore, as regards the system of collective bargaining, provision is made for a procedure to declare sectoral and occupation-based agreements to be universally mandatory. The national general collective labour agreement, which is universally applicable by law and sets minimum levels of pay on the national level, provides a minimum safety net for cases where there is no sectoral or occupation-based agreement that has been declared universally applicable.

d) whether the legal framework sets a maximum period for considering a worker a “posted worker” rather than a “resident worker”. If yes, please specify this maximum period.

Νο.

e) whether there are special rules for certain sectors (for instance, construction). If yes, please specify the sectors and briefly illustrate such special rules.

The provisions of the Presidential Decree which refer to the minimum paid annual leave and the minimum rates of wage do not apply in the cases of: initial assembly and /or first installation of goods, where this is an integral part of a contract for the supply of goods and necessary for taking the goods supplied into use and carried out by the skilled and/or specialised workers of the supplying undertaking, if the period of posting does not exceed eight days. The above mentioned exception does not apply to activities in the field of constructions regarding building, restoration, regular maintenance, transformation or demolition of buildings and specifically: excavation, earthmoving, actual building work, assembly and dismantling of prefabricated elements, fitting out, installation, alteration, renovation, repair, dismantling, demolition, maintenance, painting, cleaning work, improvements. This means that in the case of these sectors the provisions which refer to the minimum paid annual leave and the minimum rates of wage apply in any case.

2.2 Monitoring of implementation of regulation

a) whether a monitoring system for collected data and information on the number and employment conditions of posted workers was set up. If yes, please provide details on such system (bodies involved, structure, methods of collection and dissemination of information, etc.) and its effectiveness;

According to Presidential Decree 219/2000, competent bodies are the Corps of Labour Inspectors and the General Directorate of Labour and the General Directorate of Working Conditions and Health of the Ministry of Labour. In practice though these bodies were not able to provide such information (see answer to question 1.1.).

b) whether measures were introduced to make the information on the terms and conditions of employment generally available to foreign service providers and to the posted workers concerned.

According to Presidential Decree 219/2000 competent bodies to provide this information are the General Directorate of Labour and the General Directorate of Working Conditions and Health of the Ministry of Labour. These bodies have not yet taken any initiative to provide information on the terms and conditions applied to posted workers in Greece (for example edition of brochures, creation of website etc)

c) whether the law envisages the implementation of special labour inspections devoted to verify the number and employment conditions of posted workers. If yes, please provide details on how these are organised and on their effectiveness and outcomes.

Presidential Decree 219/2000:

- stipulates that enterprises posting workers must, before provision of services begins, submit to the Corps of Labour Inspectors (Σώμα Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας, ΣΕΠΕ) in the place where the services are provided a) a written statement containing various data (such as address of place of work, date work will begin and its likely duration, possible use of hazardous materials or methods, etc.), b) a list of the posted workers showing for each one: occupation, date employment relationship will begin, working hours, all types of remuneration paid, etc.

- assigns the supervision and monitoring of the enforcement of its provisions to the Corps of Labour Inspectors.

2.3 Please specify if particular rules have been devised to deal with specific situations of posted workers:

a) the current rules for the posting of temporary agency workers in your country, especially whether the law requires the application to temporary agency workers of:

The law requires the application to temporary agency workers of the whole legislation on temporary agency work (also on types and requirements for temporary agency work). Specifically, in accordance with the wording of Presidential Decree 219/2000 (Article 4, para. 1): “Enterprises … must guarantee to the workers they post … the implementation of the terms and conditions of employment stipulated by Greek labour legislation … the national general collective labour agreement, which by law is universally applicable, as well as by the collective labour agreements in force at any given time or arbitration decisions which have been declared universally mandatory and regard … the status of workers made available to a user company by temporary employment agencies or undertakings.”

b) the current rules for employment conditions in public procurement, notably whether the law:

The legislation on awarding public works contracts envisages the following: “The contractor shall be obliged to observe the provisions of labour legislation, the provisions and regulations on prevention of accidents to its staff…” (Article 34, para. 4, Presidential Decree 609/1985). As regards the construction sector, more specific provisions apply. According to para. 7 of Article 37 of Law 3669/2008 “Ratification of the codification of the legislation on construction of public works”: The contractor shall be obliged to observe the provisions of labour legislation, the provisions and regulations on prevention of accidents to its staff, or to the staff of the implementing body of the work or to any third party, and to take measures to protect the environment. As regards safety measures, it shall be obliged to design on its responsibility all studies in this regard (structural design of scaffolding, study for temporary marking of works, etc.) and to undertake all works in this regard. In other words, the whole of labour legislation and collective labour agreements must be applied.

If the above are not observed, the contractor may have its rights revoked, following a decision in this regard by the competent authority. More specific provisions are foreseen in the case of pay. More specifically, it is stipulated that: “If the contractor delays in paying the staff it uses for the work, following written notice to the parties concerned the managing authority shall call on the contractor to pay the beneficiaries within 15 days. If the contractor fails to pay the beneficiaries, then the managing authority shall draw up payment schedules for the amounts due, and shall pay the beneficiaries directly from the work’s charge account, on behalf of the contractor and against its credit. Pursuant to this paragraph, the wages may be paid up to a maximum of three months before notice is given to the parties concerned.” (Presidential Decree 609/1985).

The law does not envisage specific clauses in the case of posted workers.

3. Positions and actions of the social partners and government on posted workers

3.1 Please indicate the positions and main initiatives that the social partners and the government have taken with reference to posted workers, either in-coming or out-going, and especially indicate:

a) the presence of a debate on the relevance and consequences for national labour law and industrial relations institutions of recourse to posted workers. If such debate is present, please refer its main contents and whether it refers to specific sectors.

Transnational posting of workers has not until recently been an issue of major interest. However, during the last year this issue, in conjunction with the issue of hiring out of labour in general (hiring out in the framework of a group of companies, temporary employment, employment through fictitious temporary employment agencies, outsourcing) were issues that came to the fore, sometimes occasioned by tragic events.

Specifically, two events brought the issue of transnational posting of workers into the news.

The first incident involved three Greek workers from Thrace, who were on hunger strike for 19 days demanding wages owed to them by the Aker Yards shipyard in Saint-Nazaire in western France. The shipyard had assigned the work of ship painting to the German company ELBE with headquarters in Bremen, which recruited the Greek and other foreign workers. The matter was widely publicised and obtained the active solidarity of the unions and local society, along with the intervention of the Greek consular authorities. Unfortunately, one of the hunger strikers, aged 35 and father of a 9-year-old daughter, died at his home two days after his return to Greece. In an announcement in this regard, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπανδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE) stated the following, inter alia: “GSEE has expressed its radical opposition to private employment agencies which in effect function as a contemporary slave trade,” and referred to the contractors as “slave traders/agents” and “hunters of cheap heads” who “misled” the workers, who became their “victims.”

The second case involved the transnational posting of workers; however, it did not fall within the scope of application of Directive 96/71/EC, because the contracting company employing workers in Greece was headquartered in Belarus. In this case Hellenic Petroleum (Ελληνικά Πετρέλαια, ELPE) held an international competition through which it contracted the construction of tanks in Thessaloniki to an engineering firm, Athina. Athina subcontracted the project to a Belarusian company employing a total of 49 Belarusian and Lithuanian workers. According to a letter in this regard from the Panhellenic Metalworkers’ Union (Πανελλήνια Ομοσπονδία Εργατοϋπαλλήλων Μετάλλου, POEM) to the Ministry of Employment (Υπουργείο Απασχόλησης και Κοινωνικής Προστασίας, YPAKP): “…the Belarusian workers were selected for obvious reasons, at Belarusian wages, insured by a private company in their country … We are not possessed by any racist syndrome, but we would be grateful for your intervention … because unemployment, dismissals, layoffs, subsidised short-time work, part-time employment (three-day weeks, etc.), in Macedonia in particular, have taken on explosive dimensions … Our insurance funds are foundering and instead of focusing its interest on such approaches by state-run enterprises such as ELPE, the state limits itself to cutting back on workers’ insurance coverage … We believe that the government’s declared position on bringing Greek workers back into the construction industry, reducing unemployment and boosting employment also refers to state-controlled enterprises and the assignment of projects by them to subcontractors.” It appears in other words that the Confederation decries on the one hand the employment of workers at lower levels of pay and terms and conditions of employment, and on the other denounces the unfair competition this causes to Greek workers who have been hit by unemployment. It must be noted that the trade unions are acting very carefully because they do not want to be misinterpreted and be characterised as xenophobic and they underline that they are not against foreign workers but against the misuse of foreign provision of services.

From the side of the employer organisations, there were no official announcements or positions taken on these events or in relation to the transnational posting of workers in general. However, the whole spirit of the announcements by the employer organisations on outsourcing and external flexibilisation of companies allows us to say that they believe that such methods boost the competitiveness of the economy.

The part played by the government in such cases is usually that of mediator between the employer, the unions and the labour inspectorate, in order to resolve specific disputes. In relation to the issue of transnational posting of workers, there has been no comprehensive position nor are there plans to take any (legislative or other) initiatives in this regard.

Thus it is safe to say that in relation to the issue of transnational posting of workers the debate takes place on a case-by-case basis, prompted by specific events.

b) any positions expressed or actions taken in view of the recent rulings by the European Court of Justice (cases Laval un Partneri - C-341/05, Rüffert - C-346/06, Commission v Luxembourg – C-319-06).

By and large, the Greek unions perceive these rulings in the same way as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) does. That is, they believe that these rulings give priority to economic freedoms and push social rights aside, that they interpret the concept of the public interest very narrowly and incorrectly, and that they strike a hard blow to national collective bargaining systems and interfere in areas that are the exclusive province of the member states.

3.2. The main campaigns or initiatives undertaken by the social partners specifically aimed at posted workers or firms posting workers. If such campaigns or initiatives are present, please indicate their main features and whether they refer to specific sectors. Please cover, in particular:

a) Trade union initiatives:

Union initiatives mainly concern the exercise of political pressure and complaints made to local labour inspectorates, prefectural authorities and the Ministry, so that controls may be carried out to determine whether the laws and the collective labour agreements are being respected or not.

b) Employers initiatives:

No such initiatives as yet.

c) Any kinds of joint action undertaken by the social partners with regard to the issue of posted workers

There was not joint action undertaken as yet.

4. Collective disputes and case law on posted workers

4.1 Please indicate whether collective disputes involving posted workers are frequent or increasing in recent times.

Collective disputes involving posted workers are not frequent: in recent years the collective dispute which received broader publicity was the one involving the employment of the workers by ELPE through a Belarusian company (it should be noted that this case does not fall within the scope of application of Directive 96/71/EC). However, the time when something like this happened is no coincidence but a function of the general developments in the EU (economic crisis, higher unemployment, etc.); our personal assessment is that such cases are very likely to concern the unions and public opinion in the future.

4.2. Please provide information on any major collective disputes which concerned the utilisation of posted workers in your country. Please include for each case:

No major collective disputes which concerned the utilisation of posted workers as yet.

4.3 Please provide information of existing case law in your country involving posted workers. Please include:

In Greece there has been no case law involving posted workers as yet.

Commentary

Transnational posting of workers has not as yet been a major subject of broader public dialogue, perhaps because it is not particularly widespread (however, this is nothing more than guesswork, since there are no quantitative data in this regard). Only unions have denounced the employment of cheap labour through foreign subcontracting companies mainly in the sectors of tourism, construction and petroleum products. However, specific cases have not received broad publicity until recently. This is no accident, but is a function of higher unemployment, the economic crisis and the highlighting of the issue on the pan-European level following the opposition generated by the rulings of the European Parliament in this regard (Viking, Laval, Rüffert, Luxemburg).

Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

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