ECONOMY

Proposals for making sacking easier

Six ground-shaking proposals are included in the set of changes that the experts’ committee for the reform of the labor law has submitted to the Employment Ministry. In its set of conclusions and proposals, which touch on a multitude of subjects, the committee brands the dismissal of employees as «one of the most difficult issues in seeking a successful combination of flexibility and security.» At least six of the 12 proposals about the sacking of employees constitute a major departure from the current mentality and practice. This explains why the Employment Ministry has been uncertain as to how to handle the set of proposals, just a few days after the passing of the bill on social security reform. The report proposes «flexibility with security in dismissals» and is in favor of reducing administrative interventions. «The Greek legislator,» it says, «has remained bound by the mentality that the protection of employees in the case of group dismissals is mainly secured through a system of administrative restrictions. Therefore, while according to EU law the focus is within the context of the participatory procedures for employee representatives, through the recognition of the right to be informed and to consult with the employer, the focus of the checking of group dismissals in Greek law is on administrative intervention, which is characterized by the police-like peculiarity of banning dismissals.» More specifically, the committee proposes the following changes to the social partners: 1) To look into the introduction of a regulation similar to that of most countries in the EU, whereby employers are relieved of the obligation for a set period of prior warning and compensation to an employee who is dismissed in the case of severe and anti-conventional behavior. 2) To maintain the right of compensation even in the case of an employee’s willing departure, otherwise labor mobility is hampered. 3) To pay employees additional compensation if their case is taken to court and they are ordered to be reinstated. Instead of reinstatement, the proposal is for a financial offset, depending on the size of the company and the time of employment by this employer. 4) To increase the responsibility of social partners, so that in dismissals that are due to economic or technical reasons, the specific regulations are determined by the social partners. 5) To arrange for court cases on the validity of a dismissal to be heard quickly. 6) To abolish the right of the central administration to have the final word on a dismissal, so that both employers and employees are forced into giving ground. Practically, this lifts the arbitration authority for approving or disapproving dismissals which the central administration maintains in case of failed dismissals. The committee was set up in order to propose which sections of the labor law regarding labor relations should be updated. Headed by Ioannis Koukiadis, a professor of labor law at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and a former PASOK European Parliament deputy, the committee was created in March 2007 when Savvas Tsitouridis was employment minister. The government, and the Employment Ministry in particular, have undertaken an obligation to the European Union for the reform of the labor law. The proposals are included in a report more than 200 pages long and constitute the key points. The five academics and one practical expert are also proposing a dialogue among social partners. The outcome of this dialogue is supposed to lead to reforms according to the directions of the EU Green Paper. Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia has distanced herself from the text and the committee and an effort is clear to undermine the proposals. «The committee’s report consists of proposals to the social partners and the political parties, and, instead of sticking to partisan mottos, they are free to take clear positions about what they want and what they do not based on the characteristics of Greek reality,» Koukiadis told Kathimerini. Over the last few months, Koukiadis has been strongly criticized because the proposals seem to seek a mix of flexibility and security, and have been named «flexicurity.»