EU court set to deal blow to gov’t over mass firings

EU court set to deal blow to gov’t over mass firings

The European Court of Justice may be set to deal a blow to the Greek government’s hopes of retaining certain restrictions on mass dismissals when labor regulations come under the scrutiny of the country’s lenders later this year.

The court’s advocate general has just issued an opinion that deems incompatible with European Union legislation a law in Greece that forced firms to secure approval from the Greek labor minister if they are planning mass layoffs.

The institutions handling Greece’s bailout have long asked for the ministerial veto over mass sackings to be repealed. The issue is set to be one of those discussed in the fall, when the lenders are due to carry out the second review of the Greek program.

It is expected that the European Court of Justice will adopt the advocate general’s opinion, which came after an appeal by French firm Lafarge in connection to its plans to fire dozens of employees at a cement plant in Halkida, Evia in 2013.

The factory was operated by AGET Heracles, a subsidiary of Lafarge, whose executives wanted to shut the facility down, firing 236 workers in the process. In keeping with a law passed in 1983, the firm asked the labor minister to give the green light for the dismissals. However, it was refused permission, prompting the company to appeal to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court.

In turn, the Greek judges asked the EU court to decide if the legislation in question clashed with the provisions in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on the free movement of capital and the freedom of establishment.

In his opinion, the EU court’s advocate general suggested that allowing a minister to overrule a company’s decision to make mass dismissals is not compatible with EU legislation, even if the country in question is going through an economic crisis.

The official’s opinion is nonbinding but legal experts told Kathimerini that the European Court of Justice usually aligns its verdict with the view given by the advocate general.

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