ECONOMY

Gov’t tables broad bill on labor and social security

The government plans to clamp down on private employment selection firms (IGSE) and temporary employment agencies (EPA) that do not meet legal requirements, aiming to stave off illegal hirings and violation of worker rights, according to a draft bill tabled in Parliament yesterday. The draft document also envisages the dismantling of state manpower agency OAED’s Human Resources Support Service, set up in 2001 to oversee employment promotion centers and the operation of EPAs. Furthermore, the bill, which deals with a broad array of labor and social security issues, lays down that the operation of unlicensed IGSEs and EPAs will be considered penal code violations punished by up to two years’ imprisonment and fines of at least 7,000 euros. A special panel advising the ministry on license approval will include representatives of employers and unions. According to other provisions, enterprises that are in arrears in their contributions to their employees’ social security funds will be barred from bank loans. «Lending to enterprises by banks or other credit institutions is not allowed without production of a certificate by the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and other funds confirming payment or settlement of social security contributions due to them,» says Article 17 of the bill. The certificate will be valid for three or six months, depending on whether the firms concerned employ up to four or more employees. Other provisions of the bill enable the self-employed insured with TEBE and traders to settle any overdue social security contributions, with reductions ranging between 50 and 80 percent on the additional charges levied because of the delay. A discount of 80 percent on such charges applies if all arrears are paid in a lump sum. A 50 percent discount applies if payments are made in 60 installments. The bill introduces normal paid leave for newly hired (less than 12 months in work) employees, as in the rest of the EU. Such leave will amount to one day for every month in employment. Another provision envisages increased maternity leave but also introduces paternity leave – under conditions – and more time off work for young mothers. The two initial articles of the bill, which has the title «Social Dialogue for the Promotion of Employment and Social Protection,» provide for two respective National Committees, each consisting of at least 21 members from a number of ministries and public agencies, which will evaluate and promote action plans in the two fields. Separately, Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas, who chaired the EU Employment Ministers Council in Brussels yesterday, said poverty and social exclusion tend to increase as a result of recession. He said 56 million people in the EU (15 percent) are threatened by poverty, despite a fall in unemployment.