'N': Negotiations over labor market liberalization along 8 'axes'

Monday, 19 September 2016 20:27
SOOC/Nikos Libertas

Minister Giorgos Katrougalos cited what he called “eight thematic axes” over which negotiations are expected to take place (file photo).

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A final draft by an experts’ committee on labor relations and reforms is expected to be handed to the relevant Greek minister this week, given that Athens begins crucial negotiations with its institutional creditors on labor-related issues ahead of a second review of the Greek program (third bailout).

Minister Giorgos Katrougalos cited what he called “eight thematic axes” over which negotiations are expected to take place.

Creditors, especially the IMF, have pressed the leftist Greek government to liberalize the country’s labor sector, in a bid to contain business costs and to boost lagging competitiveness in Greece.

According to information obtained by “N”, the axes cited by Katrougalos include:

  • The regime governing mass firings in the country, as creditors want to abolish the right given to the relevant labor minister to sign off on mass layoffs. Given the enormous political costs entailed, nary a Cabinet member, of any political formation, wants their name to appear next to a document allowing mass firings, even for companies facing restructuring or closure. Similar restrictions exist in Spain and the Netherlands.
  • Creditors are also pressing for a greater number of lay-offs per company, especially in larger companies. Here again, caps on mass lay-offs vary from European country to European country.
  • The regime for bargaining agreements in the country between unions and employers’ groups, with the government and unions promoting the previously unassailable collective bargaining framework per sector. After the crisis, lawmakers allowed for company-wide contracts and even individual work contracts between an employer and employee, a liberalization detested by long-entrenched Greek unions.
  • Deciding whether a mandatory minimum monthly wage will be the product of a legislative act or the product of bargaining between unions and employers.
  • Allowing employers the right to a defensive “lock out”, which exists under strict conditions in Germany, UK, Belgium and Spain.
  • Unionists’ right to immunity from firing, except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Changing the manner in which industrial actions are declared, namely, requiring a 50+1 vote for a strike instead of the current vote among participants at a general assembly.

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