Trends in temporary work in Greece

A recent survey reveals a high incidence of temporary work in Greece. Here we review the new research and the main developments since the early 1990s

In Greece, temporary work, especially in the form of fixed-term contracts, constitutes a policy widespread amongst enterprises in both private and public sectors. Although the phenomenon of temporary work has decreased considerably in comparison with the early 1990s, when its incidence was twice that of the EU average (18% and 9% respectively), it is still quite high (10.5% and 11% respectively). A factor contributing to this decrease was the decision of the Government in the course of 1990 to dismiss 50,000 temporary public employees as part of its attempt to rationalise the functioning of the public sector.

A considerable percentage of temporary workers in Greece are employed under an employment contract or a contract for services, though in practice they are not distinguished from those employed under a contract for work carried out in a position of "subordination" (symvassi exartimenis ergasias). This means that - in accordance with Greek case law - the contract of employment as a contract of service, in contrast to a contract for services, is interpreted as a situation in which the employee is obliged to perform the contractually agreed work subject to the employer's instructions. Contracts for services are used to cover forms of temporary work, particularly homeworking and subcontracting, which predominate almost entirely in sectors such as clothing and textiles.

Another particular form of temporary work is seasonal work with high proportions in tourism (such as restaurants and hotels) and agriculture, owing to the special characteristics of the Greek economy.

These trends are confirmed in a sample survey conducted by INE/GSEE, the research and training arm of the GSEE union confederation, on the use of flexible forms of work in companies, covering 44 big businesses operating in Athens and its surrounding area. According to the results, the particular forms of temporary work referred to above constitute the main choice for more than half the businesses in the sample. As positive effects of temporary work on companies and employees, the survey stresses the way it allows coverage of special or cyclical working requirements, the reduction of labour costs and temporary solutions to the problem of unemployment. The negative effects are mainly the lack of skilled employees and the future insecurity of the employees involved.

Another problem of great importance which derives from the use of particular forms of temporary work is that the employers concerned are infringing the legislation by employing temporary workers on a standard basis and not just to cover special or cyclical requirements. Serious deficiencies within the Labour Inspectorate have contributed to this problem, particularly in small businesses.

Finally, the majority of these particular forms of temporary work are not covered by insurance regulations and labour legislation, with the result that they violate the rights of the employees. The unions are therefore proposing the reform of labour legislation to cover a wider section of the labour force and to restrict the use of temporary work to only when it is necessary.

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