Government's proposals for regulating employment and social protection
In July 1997, in the framework of its current process of social dialogue, the Greek Government presented its proposals for industrial relations reform and new forms of employment.
The Government presented its proposals on 1 July 1997 to employers and trade unions represented in the "Regulation of forms of employment and social protection towards the year 2000" strand of the social dialogue process launched earlier this year (GR9704112N). The proposals covered six specific areas:
- working time;
- part-time work;
- measures to protect those employed in new "atypical" forms of employment;
- Territorial employment pacts (TEPs);
- pensioners' employment; and
- measures to protect the employment of marginalised social groups.
In order to accelerate the adaptation of the labour force to new developments in production, the Government proposes a new adjustment of working time patterns whereby working hours can be averaged out on a six-, nine- or 12-monthly basis. The Government proposes to combine this goal with a gradual reduction of compulsory overtime and a significant reduction of overtime overall.
The Government is proposing a discussion on the reduction of working time either through an agreement between employers and employees at sectoral or company level and on condition that competitiveness is not threatened, or within the framework of a more general regulation for all member states of the European Union.
According to the Government, part-time work will improve youth employment under certain specific conditions. It wants to discuss the following:
- the conditions under which part-time work is to be introduced into public administration and the broader sector of public services and enterprises;
- the maximum proportion of part-time employees across different sectors of the economy;
- the conditions under which a part-time employee may transfer to full-time employment;
- an appropriate pension system for long-term part-time employees; and
- the adoption of measures to support part-time employees who are made redundant.
New forms of employment
According to the Government, the evolution of employment patterns based on new technologies generates new "atypical" forms of employment and hence the need to redefine the rules and regulations covering social security. It is therefore proposing a strict definition of rules and responsibilities concerning healthcare, pensions, access to other social benefits and assistance, as well as new regulations which are required to fill the gaps resulting from current legal inadequacies for those employed under atypical forms of employment.
Territorial employment pacts
The Government believes that the implementation of territorial agreements can boost the creation of new jobs and the promotion of socially useful work, especially amongst marginalised groups and the unemployed. Issues under discussion are as follows:
- the monitoring of TEPs at national level;
- the rules and conditions for the formation of TEPs;
- the rules and conditions for the financing of TEPs;
- the management of TEPs; and
- the framework of activities and measures that can be developed through TEPs.
Employment of pensioners
The Government recognises that many pensioners live on a low income and for this reason they need to continue to work. However, for those who choose to remain on the labour market the Government is proposing a reduction in pension entitlement. More specifically, it stresses that dialogue should be focused on three areas:
- examination of the problem (such as an analysis of the existing legal framework, social characteristics of working pensioners and so on);
- solutions for their incorporation into the labour market; and
- the structural changes necessary for their transition from full-time employee to pensioner.
Measures to support marginalised social groups
The Government defines as marginalised social groups young people aged under 29, long-term unemployed people aged 50 to 55 and those who are unemployed owing to collective redundancy. The measures proposed for discussion cover:
- institutional regulations governing employment subsidies - that is, the transfer of resources to those enterprises that recruit new employees to help reduce their labour costs (especially non-wage labour costs);
- financing measures to increase employment, either through the establishment of cooperative businesses or under the auspices of the Labour Force Employment Organisation (OAED);
- institutional regulations promoting the adaptation of the labour force to the demands of the labour market (such as training and the development of a "national apprenticeship system");
- measures that increase employment at a local level; and
- the transfer of resources to marginalised groups, either by means of special benefits or other institutional regulations.
The discussion over the regulation of industrial relations and social protection is now under way. However, the Government's proposals consist in a variety of different subjects without a central "philosophy" and they therefore lack coherence. Moreover, many of the subjects proposed for discussion belong to other areas of the current social dialogue such as "competitiveness and employment", "social security" and "development". Another significant weakness of the Government's proposals is their lack of clearly defined goals: are these to be construed as the reduction of labour costs, the promotion of competitiveness, growth in employment or the improvement of industrial relations? A working party of technical experts will now study all the proposals in an attempt to find a consensus between the three sides involved (Government, employers and unions). It is certainly expected that the way in which this process of social dialogue develops will influence the evolution of the system of industrial relations in Greece as a whole. (Eva Soumeli, INE-GSEE)