Greece: Latest developments in working life Q3 2019

The adoption of new regulations repealing recent labour law provisions, industrial action against the draft bill on development and labour relations, and the announcement of the extension of the general national collective agreement are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Greece in the third quarter of 2019.

New government abolishes measures protecting private sector workers

On 7 July, the New Democracy party won an outright majority in the Greek elections and formed a new government. The government then began to repeal a number of labour law provisions that had been introduced by the previous government (through Law 4623/2019). [1]

The employer’s obligation to justify the dismissal of an employee with a good reason: The new regulation repeals Articles 48 and 49 of Law 4611/2019 and provides that the termination of an employment relationship is valid if it has been made in writing and if compensation has been paid. The employer is not required to state a good reason for the termination in the case of open-ended employment contracts. The new regulation is valid as of 17 May 2019 (the date of the enactment of the repealed provision).

Suspension of the date/time limits for employees to appeal to the courts over the validity of a contract’s termination: The new regulation repeals Article 58 of Law 4611/2019 concerning the suspension of date/time limits in the event that the employee had pursued conciliation or the labour dispute settlement procedure of the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE). The regulation is valid as of 17 May 2019 (the date of the enactment of the repealed provision).

Joint responsibility of the awarding authority and the contractor/subcontractor for the application of labour law in the case of contracting and subcontracting: The new regulation repeals Article 9 of Law 4554/2018, which contained additional provisions on the protection of employees in cases of contracting and subcontracting. These changes had established that the contracting entity and the contractor (or the contractor and subcontractor) were jointly responsible for paying salaries and safeguarding labour law, and included provisions for relevant procedures and sanctions. This law does not apply to the public sector. The new regulation is valid as of 17 July 2018 (the date of the enactment of the repealed provision).

Mixed reactions to new labour market provisions

On 26 September, the Athens Labour Center (EKA), [2] the Confederation of Greek Civil Servants’ Trade Unions (ADEDY) [3]and other federations called for a 24-hour strike. The strike was in response to the provisions that were passed with Law 4623/2019, as well as the provisions included in a new draft bill on economic development that the government submitted for consultation on 12 September.

The main changes in the economic development bill concern:

  • the provision for exceptions from the application of national sector level or occupational collective agreements
  • the non-universal application of the favourability principle in the event of the concurrence of collective bargaining agreements
  • the provision for exceptions to the scalability of collective bargaining agreements
  • the introduction of restrictions and barriers to unilateral recourse to arbitration
  • penalties for undeclared work and the establishment of a register of businesses and employers for the recording of offenses relating to undeclared work

On the employer side, employer organisations the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), [4] the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSVEE), [5] the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE), [6] the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) and the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE) were in favour of the changes passed with Law 4623/2019. Many of the new proposed legislative changes are already in line with their past proposals and positions.

The new economic development bill was expected to pass on 24 October 2019 – the day on which the trade unions (the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), the EKA and other federations) scheduled a series of demonstrations.

Short extension for national collective bargaining agreement

Giannis Vroutsis, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, announced that the 2018 national general collective bargaining agreement (EGSSE) would be extended until 31 December 2019. The last EGSSE expired on 30 June 2019 and due to the cancelation of its Congress in March 2019, it has not been possible to sign a new agreement. The proposed extension will be included in the development bill that is under consideration and aims to facilitate negotiations between the national social partners so that a new EGSSE can be signed in January 2020.

Commentary

The regulations introduced or intended to be introduced by the New Democracy government, which emerged in the 7 July elections, abolish the earlier provisions enacted by the previous SYRIZA government. Given the reactions of employers and workers, it seems that, in general terms, these changes are viewed as being made at the expense of employees and their representation.


Footnotes

  1. ^ Eurofound (2019), Latest developments in working life Q1 2019. Eurofound (2018), Latest working life developments Q2 2018.
  2. ^ EKA (2019), Δελτίο Τύπου, Συμμετέχουμε όλοι στην 24ωρη απεργία την Τρίτη 24 Σεπτέμβρη, 18 September.
  3. ^ ADEDY (2019), Ανακοίνωση – Πανδημοσιοϋπαλληλική Απεργία Τρίτη 24.9.2019, 19 September.
  4. ^ SEV (2019), Ενημέρωση για τις νέες εργασιακές ρυθμίσεις του Ν. 4623/2019, 28 August.
  5. ^ GSEVEE (2019), Θετική η τροπολογία του Υπουργείου Εργασίας για τα εργασιακά στο Σ/Ν “Ρυθμίσεις του Υπουργείου Εσωτερικών, διατάξεις για την ψηφιακή διακυβέρνηση και άλλα επείγοντα ζητήματα”, 9 August.
  6. ^ ESEE (2019), Επανέρχεται η ισορροπία στην αγορά εργασίας με τις ρυθμίσεις του Υπ. Εργασίας – Υλοποιούνται οι θέσεις των ΜμΕ στα εργασιακά, 9 August.

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