Mixed reaction to reorganisation of Labour Inspectorate
The Greek government decided to reorganise the Labour Inspectorate having passed the relevant law in May 2009. The main goal of this intervention is to improve the services of the inspectorate by creating new regional departments and strengthening its workforce. The Economic and Social Council of Greece welcomes the new arrangements aiming to fill existing gaps in services but highlights that they will not be sufficient to improve the inspectorate’s overall operation.
Role of Labour Inspectorate
The Greek Labour Inspectorate (Σώμα Επιθεωρητών Εργασίας, SEPE) is a public service which reports to the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection (Υπουργείο Απασχόλησης και Κοινωνικής Προστασίας). The purpose of SEPE’s operation is to supervise the application of labour laws in the workplace. Labour inspectors carry out inspections at workplaces and have the power to impose fines on employers that violate labour laws. SEPE is also competent to submit proposals to the state on the improvement of laws pertaining to working conditions. Nevertheless, the main problem in the operations of SEPE to date is that it does not have enough labour inspectors in order to successfully perform the tasks assigned to it; as a result, a significant number of violations of labour laws have occurred and remain unresolved (GR0806039I, GR0411104F, GR0102100F).
In mid May 2009, the Greek government passed a law to reorganise the Labour Inspectorate. The changes promoted by the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection firstly concern the creation of new directorates in order to supervise more thoroughly employers’ adherence to labour law throughout the entire country. To achieve this, additional departments are being set up within SEPE in areas of the country where many sectors of economic activity and, therefore, a high number of workers are concentrated. Secondly, the changes aim to reinforce the number of staff employed by SEPE through the transfer, reassignment and secondment of employees from other public services to the inspectorate.
More specifically, it is anticipated that the number of Special Inspectors will increase from 20 to 28 staff. These inspectors will carry out audits, on the orders of the Special Secretary, at various undertakings; however, they will primarily conduct internal audits of SEPE’s services.
In addition, new departments will be established within SEPE as many of the already existing services cover extremely extended areas of competence, thus rendering audits and access by citizens to such services difficult and time-consuming. In some regions, due to major industrial and commercial development and the ongoing process of decentralisation, new services need to be set up.
Reaction of social partners
The draft law on the changes to the Labour Inspectorate was sent by the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection to the Economic and Social Council of Greece (Οικονομική και Κοινωνική Επιτροπή, OKE) for an opinion on the new arrangements. As the main tripartite body of social dialogue, OKE issued an opinion (in Greek, 344Kb PDF) in which it welcomed the planned provisions to fill some of the existing gaps in available services. However, it emphasised that these modifications will not be enough to change the overall operation of the inspectorate. In addition, OKE suggested further measures to improve the operation of SEPE.
Among its recommendations, OKE proposed:
- better allocation of labour inspectors in geographical terms. It noted that the creation of the new departments within SEPE is not accompanied by any feasibility study as regards the need to establish a department in a specific area;
- increasing the number of staff with skilled personnel and filling vacant jobs since some departments are currently operating with only a single person;
- proper education and training of SEPE’s personnel;
- coordination of SEPE with other auditing services, namely those of the Social Security Institute (Ίδρυμα Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων, IKA), the Occupational Hazard Assessment Centres (Κέντρο Πρόληψης Επαγγελματικού Κινδύνου, KEPEK) and the Labour Force Employment Organisation (Οργανισμός Απασχόλησης Εργατικού Δυναμικού, OAED). Furthermore, mixed auditing units should be created as the relevant legal provision already exists in this regard. OKE pointed out that similar or greater shortcomings to those of SEPE are apparent in the auditing units of these services.
The reorganisation of SEPE, along with increased staffing levels, was called for in each Annual Activity Report of the inspectorate. Nevertheless, as also cited in OKE’s opinion statement, an increase in the number of labour inspectors should also be accompanied by proper education and training for these workers. For instance, the way in which personnel will be hired – through secondment or the transfer of employees to the inspectorate from other public services – does not mean that these employees will have the necessary knowledge required for their new tasks.
Stathis Tikos, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)