New sector-level collective agreement in financial services
In late December 2006, following tense negotiations, strikes and strong opposition, a new sector-level collective agreement was signed for the financial services sector. The new agreement sets out the terms of pay and employment conditions for employees of banks and related financial services enterprises throughout Greece, for the period 2006–2007.
On 22 December 2006, agreement was reached on the signing of a new collective agreement for the financial services sector. This followed several rounds of difficult bargaining negotiations (GR0602105N), accompanied by strikes among bank employees, as well as interventions by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), the Greek Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) and bank representatives. The agreement, which will remain in effect for two years from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2007, includes pay and non-pay elements, as well as regulations on bank opening hours.
Both sides made concessions in order to secure the new agreement, which provides for two equal annual pay increases, sets the framework for regulating working hours for special service staff working shifts, and legalises evening and Saturday opening hours, during which time staff will work voluntarily and receive additional pay.
In relation to pay, from 1 January 2006, an increase of €44 was agreed on for all brackets of the single wage scale, along with a similar increase of €47 beginning on 1 January 2007. In parallel, the allowances for daytime nursery schools, maternity leave and children’s holiday camps increased by 5% in 2006 and again by 5% in 2007. Prospective housing loans granted to eligible employees also increased from the current loan amount of €100,000 to €150,000.
According to the agreement, working hours for special services staff such as information technology (IT) specialists and traders, along with shifts and bonuses, will be regulated through company-level collective agreements; the contracting party for employees will be the most representative company-level trade union.
In addition, rules have been laid down for shift work, evening work and Saturday work for a specific number of special branches, in accordance with the size of each group’s network. Article 10 of the collective agreement stipulates that each bank will determine which of its branches will remain open by way of exception outside of normal working and opening hours, as follows:
- up to 10 branches where the network consists of more than 150 branches;
- up to five branches where the network consists of 31–150 branches;
- up to two branches where the network consists of 1–30 branches.
The abovementioned branches will operate within the following timeframe: from Monday to Friday, during which time the banks will open for business at the time specified in each case and will close before 20.30. On Saturdays, theses branches will open at 10.00 and close before 17.00.
Provision has also been made for the conclusion of company-level collective agreements regarding the other terms and conditions of voluntary evening work and Saturday work of employees in such branches. However, it is specified that employees who work on Saturdays will work a 35-hour week.
Finally, Article 12 of the collective agreement regulates matters concerning the breakdown of regular paid leave as follows: in exceptional cases, employees may, on request, take the leave to which they are entitled in a number of stages within a single calendar year, provided that at least one such period consists of 10 or more consecutive working days.
According to OTOE, the conclusion of this collective agreement represents an important achievement, as it safeguards the institution of sector-wide collective agreements, along with more favourable conditions for employees in the financial services sector. At the same time, employees are set to receive pay increases exceeding €150 on average. OTOE points out that the conclusion of this collective agreement has positive implications for employees in the financial services sector. This is particularly pertinent in light of the fact that the trade union movement in the sector has repeatedly come under attack from the government and the banks in the past, with regard to the insurance system, working hours and the questioning of the sector-wide collective agreement at the beginning of 2006.
Anda Stamati, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE-GSEE)