Flexible types of work on the rise, labor laws ineffective

Long-term and full-time work continues to be the main type of employment in Greece, engaging about 80 percent of working people, but in recent years there has been a strong trend toward more flexible types of employment, a study says. Presenting the study in Athens yesterday, the chairman of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), Christos Polyzogopoulos, said problems in industrial relations were as serious as unemployment, noting that the successive labor laws of 1998 and 2000 did not contribute to a rise in employment. He also claimed that illegal practices were widespread in the labor market, warning that GSEE planned to make the issue a focal point of its activities in the near future. According to the study, prepared by GSEE’s Labor Institute (INE), forms of temporary employment, such as short-term or seasonal contracts prevailed in more than 2,000 firms across the country, representing about 15 percent of total employment. Part-time work accounts for only about 4 percent and is showing little potential for growth. The same appears true for distance work and temporary workers who are paid by private employment agencies, an area which has drawn the interest of labor analysts in recent years, as they do not show any significant trends of likely growth in future, the study adds. INE, however, notes that about one quarter of all firms, particularly large enterprises, resorts to subcontracting out projects. This meets a significant portion of their permanent requirements and is making serious inroads into permanent employment. Hirings seem to have the edge over layoffs in the last 12 months, but most (55 percent) are accounted for by forms of flexible employment, particularly of the seasonal type. The study notes that the exemption of firms that employ between 90 and 199 workers from the 2 percent annual ceiling of dismissals has caused these to significantly rise, while those laid off, mostly workers over 40 years of age, were replaced at a rate of 60 percent by younger workers on a flexible basis. The study paints an equally negative picture of the impact of hiring incentives to employers in Act 2874, introduced two years ago. Only 6 percent of firms, accounting for 12 percent of all new hirings, said they were influenced by the restriction in overtime hours worked, the increased cost of overtime work and the reduction in employers’ social security contributions in deciding new hirings. Most enterprises, the INE study continues, have refused to implement these work hour provisions and the 39-hour week laid down in the act, but, on the contrary, have, shown overall preference for private agreements with the individual worker. Most firms appear to be complying with collective labor agreements regarding pay, although about one quarter of them have established some form of productivity-related schemes. The study also notes that only at 4.3 percent of firms are workers represented by a labor union.