5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


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

Greece ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1962 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1962.

In practice

Browse by:

Lack of social dialogue in the teaching sector30-06-2019

OLME (Greek Federation of Secondary State School Teachers) and DOE (Greek Primary Teachers’ Federation) held their Congresses on 23 - 25 and 28 - 30 June in Athens. Both organisations reaffirmed their ongoing fight to obtain the recruitment of teachers on permanent employment contracts is not an isolated case in Europe.

Putting pressure on the Greek government, especially after the Parliamentary elections in July, remains decisive in the coming months. There have been no permanent teacher appointments since 2010. All the vacant positions have been filled with teachers on precarious employment contracts. As a result, the percentage of contract teachers has doubled from 7 to 14 per cent both at primary and secondary levels over the last decade. Moreover, the demand to increase salaries remains high on the agenda of both organisations, as Greek teachers have suffered a 30 per cent cut in salaries on average in the years of austerity imposed upon the Greek population while the salaries in the broader public sector decreased by 18 per cent.

Greece remains plagued by the total absence of collective bargaining in the public sector, including public schools, which represent 95 per cent of school institutions in Greece. As in all other public sector branches, teachers’ salaries and working conditions are determined by decrees of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labour.

In the private sector, collective bargaining has been completely dismantled with the implementation of the 2010 memorandum of agreement with the EU and the IMF, and the determination of conditions of work through collective negotiation has since been replaced by individual contracts of employment.

The government also circumvents genuine tripartite social dialogue in the public sector. OLME participates in the meetings of the National Council of Education, but their role there is merely that of an observer, as the State has no obligation to take into consideration OLME’s views. Similarly, OLME’s proposals and views within the Committee for Education Affairs of the Greek Parliament are systematically rejected by the government, while a number of legislative bills become public, even before OLME is officially informed of their existence.

ITUC and ETUC deeply concerned at violence against Greek trade union centre16-04-2019

A series of attacks on the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) and a number of its structures culminated in an invasion at around 3 a.m. on 4 April by some 200 thugs of the Rhodes hotel where GSEE delegates were assembled for the GSEE’s 37th national conference where elections were due to take place. This caused the second postponement of the conference, after the first attempt to hold it on 15 March in Kalamata was also blocked by the minority group PAME.

The ITUC and ETUC condemn any and all violent attacks on trade unionists, which constitute a severe violation of the right to freedom of association and are anathema to the very principles of trade unionism. We call on the Greek government to ensure that trade unions can operate in full freedom from physical violence and threats, including by fulfilling its responsibility to ensure public safety.

The actions of the minority faction have meant that the GSEE has not been able to fulfil its obligations under its constitution, necessitating the placement of the organisation under administration. This administration should respect the democratic mandate of the elected leadership of the GSEE and ensure that the organisation is able to continue its activities, including the holding of democratic elections, without external interference.

General strike to protest the undermining of collective bargaining17-05-2017

Greek trade unions staged a general strike action on 17 May 2017 against the new anti-labour laws and 4th memorandum which the Greek government was about to sign. The new austerity measures, due to come into force in 2019 and 2020, will further cut pensions. The Greek government did not organise prior consultations with the social partners on these new measures. Under the pretext of the crisis, the Greek government has been relentlessly undermining collective bargaining and social dialogue in the country. International trade unions, including UNI Europa, have called upon the Greek government to restore collective bargaining fully, in particular at the sectoral level. The refusal to do so is undermining the capacity of trade unions to operate and is contrary to EU standards and ILO Conventions.

Unacceptable IMF attacks on Greek workers’ rights 30-03-2017

The International and European Trade Union Confederations called on the International Monetary Fund to stop insisting that Greece undertake even more pension cuts and labour market deregulation before the Fund will agree to a new loan programme, or to signing off on disbursements by European institutions.
On 23 March an IMF spokesperson stated that the IMF was seeking “in particular, pension and labour reforms” as conditions for extending financial assistance to Greece. Greek workers have already suffered a severe reduction in their living standards. The austerity and deregulation measures demanded by the creditor institutions since 2010 have included reductions in minimum wages, pensions and the scope of collective bargaining.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Greek workers have borne almost all the costs of the crisis that began in 2008: wages have fallen, pensions have been slashed and a quarter of the workforce remains unemployed. The ILO issued a major study last year showing that collective bargaining coverage in Greece fell from 70 per cent before the crisis to 10 per cent in 2015. Continuing to diminish workers’ collective rights will do nothing to put Greece on the path to economic recovery, but it will reinforce the alarming trend of growing inequality in the country.”
Luca Visentini, general secretary of the ETUC, said that the latest attempt by the IMF to further diminish workers’ rights in Greece constitutes an attack on the European social model: “Workers and employers, 95 per cent of which are microenterprises, need collective bargaining at sectoral level and do not need collective dismissals. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has already sent a letter to Prime Minister Tsipras, clearly stating that collective bargaining and the right to strike are national matters, to be settled by social partners with government support, and that the Commission will not intervene on these matters in Greece. We want the IMF to show the same respect for Greek workers and companies, instead of imposing so-called ‘reforms’ which would further damage Greece’s economy and social cohesion.”
The OECD has published data showing that, after the deregulation that took place under a previous government, employment protection rules in Greece are already weaker than in the four Nordic countries, Germany, the Netherlands and several other EU countries.
The General Secretaries of the ITUC and ETUC expressed their solidarity with the Greek trade union confederation GSEE and urged the Greek government and its European counterparts to defend Greek workers’ rights against the IMF’s latest demands.

Collective bargaining mechanisms remain paralysed 23-03-2017

After the financial crisis, several laws that radically changed the Greek system of collective bargaining (enshrined in Law No. 1876/90) were enacted in 2010 (Laws No. 3899/2010, No. 4024/2011, No. 4046/2012, No. 4093/2012 and No. 4172/2013). These reforms have been implemented as requested by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) and led to a significant erosion of collective, as well as individual, labour rights. In fact, a new mechanism for the setting of minimum wages was implemented, delegating this competence exclusively to the government with no involvement of social partners; bargaining levels were derogated; intersectoral and sectoral bargaining was downgraded; company-based agreements were encouraged to become predominant and the extension mechanism was abolished, making collective agreements binding only for signing parties. These changes completely undermined collective bargaining institutions leading to a reduction in the collective bargaining coverage from 65 per cent before the crisis to the current 10 per cent.

After the election of the Syriza-Anel government in September 2015, the Minister of Labor, Panagiotis Skourletis, started an initiative for the re-establishment of collective bargaining in Greece. In order to create a wide platform of consent, he organised a tripartite meeting on the subject, following which a new draft law entitled, “Amendment of the provisions of Law 1876/1990 – Restoration and reform of the framework for collective bargaining, mediation and arbitration and other provisions” was created.

Despite the universal consent for the Minister’s initiative, the draft law did not go before parliament. This happened because the new loan agreement between Greece and its creditors halted the legislative initiative, and stipulated that any changes must take place in agreement with the four institutions and that there cannot be a return to earlier legislation.

Collective bargaining has still not been restored in Greece. Some, small positive signs have started to come from Brussels: on 21 March 2017 the Eurogroup President, Mr. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said that collective bargaining – being classified as a European “best practice” by a group of experts investigating Greece’s labour market - should be restored in the country. However, on the same occasion he also stated that the implementation of reform programmes in Greece had been slow at the start of the crisis, that the Greek programme is far from being complete and that this “will take many years”. Indeed, a few days later, on 23 March 2017, an IMF spokesperson asked Greece for further “pensions and labour reforms”. This request sounded grotesque considering the dramatic cost already paid by Greek workers so far in terms of reductions in pensions, minimum wages, living standards and, of course, collective bargaining.

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. 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.

Government invokes emergency laws to stop strikes31-07-2014

In July 2014, electricity workers went on strike against the privatisation of the Public Power Corporation. The government referred to emergency laws in order to deem the strike illegal and force the workers to return back to work. Workers were threatened with arrests if they continued the strike action. Unions protested the use of authoritarian laws against workers defending public goods.

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 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.

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 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. The union representing the Athens’ metro workers called the strike in opposition to wage reductions which were demanded by the Troika (European Commission, IMF, European Central Bank). Other transport workers joined the 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 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 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 have been aimed at reducing wages in the private sector and essentially replacing collective bargaining 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 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 and mediation. The High Level Mission of the ILO, 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 and collective bargaining. Changes were introduced to the rules on collective bargaining 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 framework and weakening the role of trade unions. The chairperson of the Economic and Social Council of Greece has also stated that social dialogue 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. The largest banks and the Hellenic Bank Association EET (which does not consider itself an employers’ organisation) 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, the EET requested the Athens Administrative Court of First Instance to stop the mediation procedure. The court’s preliminary ruling rejected the EET claim.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap