5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Greece

The ITUC affiliate in Greece is the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE).

Law 4046/2012 was adopted in February 2012 and determines that from April 2013 “until the completion of the fiscal adjustment programme” the minimum wage will be reduced by 22 per cent in general and by 32 per cent for young people under 25 years of age. Law 4093/2012 provides that the marriage bonus (10 per cent) contained in the national collective labour agreement will no longer be included in the minimum wage.

In practice

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Court acquitted farmers who shot Bangladeshi strawberry pickers 31-07-2014

In July 2014, a court acquitted farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they asked for months of back pay back pay Wages or benefits due an employee for past employment. Often awarded when the employee has been unfairly dismissed. Not to be confused with retroactive pay (delayed payment for work previously done at a lower wage rate). . Politicians, unions and anti-racist groups condemned the verdicts, describing them as a black day for justice in a case that had shone a light on the appalling conditions in which migrant workers are often kept in Greece. Two others, accused of aggravated assault and illegal firearms possession, were jailed for 14 years and seven months and eight years and seven months, but were freed pending appeal. The strawberry pickers were shot in April 2013 when they demanded to be paid for six months’ work at a farm in Manolada in the southern Peloponnese. Four were badly injured in the attack. The migrants worked in subhuman conditions without access to proper hygiene or basic sanitation.

Trade unionists released05-05-2014

In May 2014, members of the Greek metalworkers’ union were set free after a two-year struggle by the union for their release. Victims of severely deteriorating and precarious working conditions for over a year, the workers at the Hellenic Shipyard in Skaramanga went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
on 4 October 2012. The shipyard workers’ wages had not been paid for a whole year. Clashes with police forces occurred during a subsequent protest action at the Ministry of Defence that led to the arrest of workers. As a result of the attacks by the Police and the Ministry, charges against 12 trade unionists, including POEM’s President, were filed and their struggle has been carried into the courts. The court hearing took place on 1 October 2013, but the ruling was postponed to 5 May 2014.

Government invokes emergency laws to stop strikes31-07-2014
Emergency laws invoked17-05-2013

For the third time in 2013, the Greek government threatened to invoke emergency law to force strikers back to work. The trade union representing teachers, OLME, called a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
on 17 May 2013 to protest against the new government plan which allows the transfer of 4,000 high school teachers to remote parts of Greece and the dismissal of about 10,000 part-time teachers once their temporary contracts expire.

Interference in strike action28-02-2013

In January 2013, the government forced an end to a nine day transport strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The union representing the Athens’ metro workers called the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in opposition to wage reductions which were demanded by the Troika (European Commission, IMF, European Central Bank). Other transport workers joined the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
before the government used the threat of mass arrests and police units to force people back to work. The metro workers began the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in opposition to plans to bring them under a civil service wage structure.

In February 2013, the government invoked emergency laws to force striking seamen back to work. Seamen were demanding more than six months’ worth of pay arrears and the signing of collective agreements with the ferry companies. Thousands of demonstrators converged on the country’s largest port to protest against the order, while the country’s two main unions declared a day-long regional strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in the greater Athens area in solidarity with the seamen.

Reinforcement of employers and their managerial prerogative26-03-2012

The conditions set out in the Troika’s Memoranda have also increasingly reinforced the employers and their managerial prerogative. According to the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), this has created an unfair playing field for trade unions and workers. The main measures include: the introduction of the “labour reserve” concept in the public sector as pre-dismissal, the possibility for the employers to unilaterally impose reduced term rotation work and suspension (nine and three months respectively): the drastic increase in the collective dismissal threshold (reduction of severance pay, shortening of notice period) as well as an extension of the trial period of employment (to one year) without severance pay in the event of dismissal; the abolition of the payment of the total amount of severance pay (bi-monthly instalments); the facilitated dismissal of older workers close to retirement and the extension of the duration of temporary agency work to three years from 12+6 months.

Diminished role for unions in collective bargaining31-12-2011

The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) believe that the conditions set out in the Troika’s Memoranda have been aimed at abolishing the system of minimum standard-setting through collective agreements, a system that has served Greece by maintaining social stability and promoting development for over 20 years. Furthermore, the recent significant interventions in the system of collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
have been aimed at reducing wages in the private sector and essentially replacing collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
not simply with enterprise agreements but with individual contracts.

Discussions between the government and the Troika to effectively eliminate the extension of sectoral collective agreements have taken place despite the support expressed for them by both trade unions and employers’ organisations. The introduction of the special enterprise collective agreements by Act No. 3899/2010 was a first step in the direction of weakening sectoral agreements so as to reduce wages without providing guarantees for workers.

According to the GSEE, the intention of the government and the Troika to eliminate the role of trade unions in the collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
process was reflected in the possibility of allowing atypical “associations of persons” that were not trade unions to conclude special enterprise collective agreements. The role of trade unions in concluding collective agreements on working time arrangements had already been undermined and an “association of persons” entitled to conclude such collective agreements. The government began preparing to build on this measure by allowing for the conclusion of enterprise collective agreements without the presence of a trade union so as to facilitate the negotiation of such agreements in medium, small and very small enterprises, which constitute 99% of Greek enterprises and had been covered until then by sectoral collective agreements. The law did not allow for the creation of trade unions in enterprises with less than 50 employees, hence the intention to allow collective agreements to be negotiated with informal “associations of persons” created on an ad hoc basis, i.e., with individuals that the employer would essentially invite for discussion without any guarantees of independence.

This situation has disempowered the Greek unions, and has been further compounded by changes to the system of arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
and mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
. The High Level Mission of the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
, which visited Greece in September 2011 expressed deep concerns about these changes to the “detriment of social peace and society at large”.

The debt crisis and its impact on trade union rights31-12-2011

Greece was at the centre of the European debt crisis throughout 2011. While attention has focused on the consequences for the Greek economy, welfare state and social security system, the crisis has also had a significant impact for trade unions and how they can operate.

In a bid to reduce its debt, and with membership of the eurozone precluding any opportunity to devalue its currency, the Greek government – pushed by the memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (the ‘troika’)- has instead had to pursue an ‘internal devaluation’, i.e. reducing wages and living standards sharply. For example, working hours were extended throughout the public sector from June 2011.

This situation has had consequences in terms of trade union rights in relation to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. Changes were introduced to the rules on collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
in October 2011, with the new system prioritising enterprise level bargaining and not just sectoral or occupational agreements. It has also allowed associations of persons to enter into bargaining agreements, a measure targeted at smaller enterprises.

Union bodies, including the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), have regarded some of these moves as destabilising the industrial relations industrial relations The individual and collective relations and dealings between workers and employers at the workplace, as well as the institutional interaction between unions, employers and also the government.

See social dialogue
framework and weakening the role of trade unions. The chairperson of the Economic and Social Council of Greece has also stated that social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. has not really had a chance, as the dynamics of the crisis have hindered progress.

Banks oppose sectoral collective bargaining31-12-2009

Banks in Greece have in recent years systematically pursued a strategy of avoiding sectoral-level collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. The largest banks and the Hellenic Bank Association EET (which does not consider itself an employers’ organisation employers’ organisation A body of employers associated for the collective protection and promotion of their interests. Can engage in collective bargaining with trade unions or trade union organisations. ) have refused to negotiate with the Greek Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE), preferring to bargain at the company level and to implement individualised pay schemes. When the OTOE applied for mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
, the EET requested the Athens Administrative Court of First Instance to stop the mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
procedure. The court’s preliminary ruling rejected the EET claim.

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