Greece: The Greek anti-labour austerity reforms condemned by the ILO

After the Council of Europe last month, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) considers that the measures adopted by Greece under pressure from the Troika (European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF)) erode workers’ most fundamental labour rights, seriously undermine the position of trade unions and might endanger social cohesion and peace, this by radically overhauling the established Greek industrial relations system.

During its last meeting, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) recognized that “there were a number of repeated and extensive interventions into free and voluntary collective bargaining and an important deficit of social dialogue”. It recalls “that legislation should not constitute an obstacle for collective bargaining at industry level [as it] may severely impede bargaining at higher level”.

Furthermore, it warns that “the elaboration of procedures systematically favouring decentralized bargaining of exclusionary provisions that are less favourable than the provisions at a higher level can lead to a global destabilization of the collective bargaining machinery and of worker’s and employers’ organizations and constitutes in this regard a weakening of freedom of association and collective bargaining contrary to the principles of Conventions Nos 87 and 98”. The CFA calls on the government to “engage in constructive dialogue with the workers’ and employers’ organisations”.

The CFA report responds to a complaint brought in 2010 by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEPY), the General Federation of Employees of the National Electric Power Corporation (GENOP-DEI-KIE), the Greek Federation of Private Employees (OIYE), and supported by the ITUC, denouncing the anti-labour austerity measures agreed by Greece as conditionality of the international loan mechanism with the Troika.

Along with GSEE, the ITUC strongly denounces this austerity measures that weaken free collective bargaining. Most reforms were not conducted within the context of a constructive and open social dialogue that could have arrived at alternative solutions. Taken under the pretext of the enhancement of the competitiveness of the Greek economy and the fiscal consolidation, those measures will only deepen the recession, increase unemployment and increase precarity especially for young workers that are now excluded from collective agreements in force and whose wages have been reduced.

“The ITUC welcomes the CFA decision which confirms the trade union movement’s claims that the measures imposed on Greece by the Troika pose a threat to basic democratic rights and social cohesion. There is a need for a real and true social dialogue, based on freedom of association and collective bargaining. The CFA conclusions should be examined carefully and taken into account by the multilateral organisations and in particular the IMF and European Union.” says Sharan Burrow, the ITUC General Secretary

“This is a very significant moment. We have been struggling together with the ITUC since June 2010 to defend and reclaim labour rights in Greece. The workers remain persuaded that to be sustainable, the answer to the crisis can only be based on an economy which produces employment and which is respectful of the pillars of the ILO’s decent work agenda. GSEE will continue to defend workers’ rights and fight for decent living standards for the people of Greece to ensure that they are not sacrificed at the altar of neo-liberal orthodoxy” says Yannis Panagopoulos, GSEE President.

The ITUC and GSEE expect the Greek government to follow the CFA’s recommendation when it “considers that this is a matter of utmost importance that the Government and the social partners urgently come together to review all the […] measures and their impact not only on labour relations in the country but also on the hopes for economic development and social cohesion”.

In a decision made public in October 2012, the Council of Europe already rightly condemned Greek labour law reforms implemented under the Troika Memorandum of Understanding. Its Social Rights Committee ruled that two reforms contravened the European Social Charter and should be repealed. The Committee’s President clearly stated that budgetary readjustments necessitated by the global economic crisis should not lead to an erosion of workers’ rights enshrined in the European Social Charter.

For further information:
-  See the 366th Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association
-  ILO press release
-  ITUC letter to the Greek Government

For further information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 62 10 18

Photo: Third Eye3