Greek Labour Relations in Transition in a Global Context

by Dimosthenis Daskalakis (Author)
©2015 Monographs 374 Pages


The book investigates Greek industrial relations in a global context at different periods. Combining sociological, institutional, political and social aspects, it discusses industrial relations from statism that prevailed up to the ‘80s, to policies after the early ‘90s requesting modernisation and democratic neocorporatism. It also analyzes the dramatic overthrow of the institutional and real balance in the labour market after the conclusion of the Memorandum with the E.U. and I.M.F. and the great recession of the last six years.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Industrial Relations
  • 1.1 Clarifications of Terminology and Methodology
  • 1.2 Determining Factors and Trends in Historical Research
  • 1.3 Dunlop’s Systems Theory – Criticism and Creative Responses to it
  • 1.4 Modern Research Directions
  • 1.5 Usefulness and Dangers of Comparative Studies
  • Chapter 2: The Development of the Labour Market Policy between 1980 and 2000
  • 2.1 Modernization of the Labour Market in the light of Employment Guidelines and the European Union Enlargement
  • 2.1.1 Labour Market Modernization
  • First Pillar: Inclusion in the labour market
  • Second Pillar: Entrepreneurship
  • Third Pillar: Adaptability
  • Fourth Pillar: Equal Opportunities
  • 2.2 Institutional Interventions in Labour Relations
  • 2.3 New Structural Policy on Employment
  • 2.4 Social Dialogue
  • 2.4.1 Institutionalization of Social Dialogue at National Level
  • 2.4.2 Developments in the Practice of Social Dialogue
  • 2.5 Collective Bargaining
  • 2.6 Basic Choices of the Labour Market Policy
  • 2.7 Flexibility and its Regulation
  • 2.7.1 Calling on for More Flexibility
  • 2.7.2 Regulation of Atypical Forms of Employment
  • 2.7.3 Social Protection of the Regular Model of Employment and that of an Atypical Employment
  • 2.7.4 Regulation of Part-time Employment
  • 2.7.5 Working Time
  • 2.7.6 The Establishment and Operation of Private Employment Agencies
  • 2.7.7 Local Employment Pacts
  • 2.8 Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 3: Trade Unionism in the Modern Changing Environment
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.1.1 Citizen’s Social Rights
  • 3.2 Social and Historical Background
  • 3.3 Development of Trade Unionism in Greece
  • 3.4 Institutional Safeguard
  • 3.5 Modern Trade Unions
  • 3.6 Challenges of the Modern Environment: New Technologies, Globalization, European Dimension and Changes in the Structure of the Labour Market
  • Chapter 4: Power, Conflict and Mechanisms of how to Achieve Consensus in Industrial Relations: Postfordism, State and Versions of Neocorporatism in Europe
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 State Intervention: Historical and Theoretical Framework
  • 4.3 Forms of State Intervention in Industrial Relations
  • 4.4 Fordism and the Welfare State
  • 4.5 The Issue of the Conflict
  • 4.6 Crisis, Post-Fordism and the Welfare State
  • 4.6.1 The quiet revolution
  • 4.7 Power and Achievement of Consensus
  • 4.8 Substantive and Procedural Legislative Interventions over the Past Decades
  • 4.9 Economic Policy, Incomes Policy and Consensus Forming Mechanisms
  • 4.10 The Corporatist Model of Cooperation
  • 4.11 The Development of Social Dialogue in Europe
  • 4.12 The Development of Social Dialogue in Greece
  • 4.13 Criticism of Social Dialogue
  • 4.14 Challenge for the Future
  • Chapter 5: Collective Bargaining
  • 5.1 The Significance and the Role of Collective Bargaining: Introductory Remarks
  • 5.2 Meaning and Nature of Collective Bargaining
  • 5.3 The European Experience of Collective Bargaining
  • 5.4 The Greek Experience of Collective Bargaining in the Past
  • 5.5 The Recent Greek Experience drawn upon the Model of “Free Collective Bargaining”
  • 5.6 Collective Bargaining after and under the Memorandum with the E.U. and the I.M.F.: Law 3845/2010 that Verified Memorandum, the Updated Memorandum and Law 3899/2010 which Introduced the “Special Enterprise-Level Collective Agreements”
  • 5.7 Regulations of the New Memorandum for Collective Bargaining
  • 5.8 Epilogue
  • Chapter 6: Settlement and regulation mechanisms of Collective Labour Disputes in Greece
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Reconciliation
  • 6.3 Organization of Mediation and Arbitration (OMED)
  • 6.4 Mediation
  • 6.4.1 Multilateral Negotiation
  • 6.5 Arbitration
  • 6.6 Mediation for the Conduct of “Public Dialogue”
  • 6.7 Assessment of the Institutional Reform in Greece
  • 6.8 Regulations for Mediation, Arbitration and the OMED after the Memorandum
  • 6.8.1 Legislative Confirmation of the Intention to Change the Institutional Framework
  • 6.8.2 Legislative Restrictions on the Increases Granted by the OMED
  • 6.8.3 From Arbitration Law 1876/1990 to the System of Law 3899/2010
  • 6.8.4 System Arbitration Law 3899/2010
  • 6.8.5 Changes in Law 3899/2010 on Mediation and Arbitration
  • 6.8.6 The Arbitration System in Law 4046/2012 – The New Memorandum and the Establishment of Voluntary Arbitration
  • 6.9 Instead of an Epilogue
  • Chapter 7: Flexibility in Labour Relations
  • 7.1 Labour Flexibility: Concept and Types
  • 7.2 Internal Quantitative Labour Flexibility-Flexibility of the Working Time: Dimensions of the Problem and Basic Forms
  • 7.2.1 Problems and Prospects of Part-time Employment
  • 7.3 Flexibility and Reduction of the Working Time: European and Greek Experience
  • 7.4 The 35-hour Week in Italy and France and Reflections on its Implementation in Greece
  • 7.5 External Quantitative Labour Flexibility-Flexible Forms of Employment: Formal and Informal Employment and Basic Types of Flexible Forms
  • 7.6 Part-time Employment
  • 7.7 Flexibility Regulation: Traditional Models and New Trends: Contractualization, Decentralization and Flexibility of Regulations
  • 7.8 Flexibility and Security (Flexicurity) in Employment: Is It Possible and Desirable a Greek Model?
  • 7.9 Measures for Flexibility in the Labour Market and Employment after and under the Memorandum with the E.U. and the I.M.F.
  • 7.10 Epilogue
  • Instead of an Epilogue: Focusing into the Major Changes
  • Indicative Bibliography
  • Abbreviations Index

← 10 | 11 → Preface

Every national industrial relations system is determined by the degree of the state intervention and the operation of collective labour institutions, more particularly those of collective bargaining, which for some authors and researchers, such as Flanders, are almost identical with the subject of labour – industrial relations.

In Greece, the national industrial relations system traces its origins to Metaxas’ dictatorship, just before World War II. It was then that for the first time the dictatorial regime attempted to organize a national system of industrial relationships in order to control it. Its main choices were, first, to appoint management to the unions that were controlled by the dictatorial government and, second, to create a tripartite mechanism that could regulate payments in Greece for the first time. In this mechanism participated: employers’ representatives, union representatives appointed by the government and the Minister of Labour. On the one hand, that tripartite shape, as a mechanism to regulate payments, can be considered as “ancestor”, in a sense, of the institution of collective bargaining. On the other hand, the fact that in this mechanism there was participation of union representatives appointed by government and representatives of the state itself may be pure falsification of the institution of collective bargaining. Thus, the dictatorial regime attempted to organize and control the national system of industrial relations.

Of a similar character – that is, of tripartite composition – there were bodies that were established to regulate payments were established after World War II, during the Greek Civil War and after that. The fierce statism that characterized industrial relations in Greece continued the subsequent years, that ism in the 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s. The first, however, effort to develop an effective system of collective bargaining is dated back in the mid-1950s. It was then that for the first time a system of collective bargaining was essentially created in Greece. However, it was a system that had many problematic aspects and was operating within a context of keen statism and conflict. At the time, the country was coming out of a tough Civil War; there were fierce political and social conflicts; an economy – devastated by World War II – was trying to get rebuilt with the aid of Marshall Plan; there were great waves of internal migration from the countryside to the big city centers and outside of Greece to the developed countries. Basic characteristic of that period was that there was distrust between the state and its social partners, distrust that was being manifested in various forms of intense statism and a collective bargaining system, which – although it was established at ← 11 | 12 → the time for the first time – was faking and negating the very essence of collective autonomy and the institution of collective bargaining with its provisions and its operation.

During the specific period, the national industrial relations system showed various peculiarities. The management of the trade union movement seemed to depend on the State. A lot of socio-historical and political studies refer to interventions of a foreign agent too. The dependence of the trade union movement on the state is conspicuous in the finances of trade unions. There was state control over the funding of trade unions through the well-known ODEPES (initials in Greek for “Special Resources Management Agency of Labour Unions”). The situation changed in the early 1980s when the agency ODEPES was abolished, there were provided financial independence both of trade unions and reliable procedures to appoint independent management in trade unions so the independence of the trade union movement would be ensured (Law 1264/1982 “About democratization of the trade union movement”). Furthermore, there was generalized statism in the Greek industrial relations system which was being manifested more particularly in diverse provisions and the operation of the institution of collective bargaining, something that was regulated by Law 3339/1955. Such provision was the Minister’s right to be able to judge the validity of a collective employment agreement (CEA), that is, to exercise control over the legality of the content of an attached CEA. Another provision by which statism was manifested was the general distrust between the state and its social partners, as expressed in the regulations of Law 3339/1955.

A feature of that period’s model was the paucity of the content of the collective bargainin that practically regulated payments. This system led to the development of centralized collective bargaining and arrangements and contributed to maintaining the fragmentation of the trade union movement, since it was placing its emphasis on bargaining for the same occupation. Moreover, it did not provide the opportunity for collective bargaining and conclusion of collective employment agreements (CEAs) at a company level other than public utilities. More specifically, things were controlled in public companies. Management was appointed by the government, whereas there was the respective government and party control both over the trade union management and public companies through the customer’s appointment system. Therefore, if things were not uncontrollable in public companies, there could be collective bargaining. In contrast, in private companies at company level, both collective bargaining and conclusion to collective bargaining agreements were impossible; in private economy and private sector there could be no state control. Thus, the mistrust between the state and social partners was manifested in the absence of provisions for company level ← 12 | 13 → bargaining. Typical of how much economic and social reality actually exceeded the current framework is the fact that after the dictatorship, particularly after 1974, in a number of private companies in which a keen wave of factory unionism was flourished – “enlightened employers” in partnership with trade unions drew “written agreements” that were recorded in the history of Greek labour relationships as “cooperation agreement” This agreement, however, was neither provided by the institutional context of collective bargaining nor had the power of collective contract from a legal point of view; it was simply a “debt effect”.

Furthermore, all that system of collective bargaining was accompanied by provisions for suspension of strike and regulation of collective labour disputes with a model of compulsory state arbitration. This is especially the point that had been criticized by social partners for many years. The primary and secondary administrative arbitration tribunals – which were set up by a decision of the respective Labour Minister, that is, the state character of the mechanism that was providing arbitration services – were a fact that it could not guarantee the settlement and regulation system of collective labour disputes, a function without interference from the state. At the same time, a critical issue was the obligatoriness of arbitration, namely the fact that any collective labour dispute would lead to arbitration anyway. As a result, arbitration came to replace collective bargaining while this model was in operation. Instead of taking responsibility for bargaining of essence and mutual concessions – in view of the risk of being exposed to the “basis” they represented, the negotiating parties rather wanted bargaining to fail so that it would be sent to the automatic referral to arbitration, and then they jointly (with the other party) protested against the ‘bad’ arbitration system.

The operation of such a model resulted in maintaining a situation within which the parties – employees and employers – had a negative attitude towards accountability, mutual commitments as well as towards substantial dialogue. That situation led in practice to a complete falsification and cancellation of the institution of collective bargaining. In reality, neither collective bargaining nor collective labour agreements were held as a product of collective bargaining. On the contrary, collective bargaining was held only typically so that its failure would also be typically determined and the cases would “automatically” be brought to state compulsory arbitration so that decisions of compulsory implementation were to be made. The statistics of the specific period confirm this dramatic reality, since 98% of collective bargaining was not producing collective employment agreements (CEAs); it was producing rather arbitration decisions.

Undoubtedly, it can be argued that until the 1980s government interventions resulted in a strong statism prevailing in the Greek industrial relations system. Nevertheless, something that differentiates much the 1980s was the ← 13 | 14 → fact that, at the time, there was a wave of institutional reforms in Greek labour relations favouring employees in regulating labour issues.

On the contrary, the policy of the period between 1990 and 1993, which was oscillating between voluntarism and neoliberalism, aimed to overthrow the previous status quo. Additionally, it should be acknowledged that the state after 1993 – with its interventions that seem to meet the model of democratic bargained neocorporatism – formed a new institutional balance between state intervention and collective autonomy in industrial relations, a balance that allowed the operation of the labour market to be based not only on stable social protection but also on a flexible legal framework through which industrial relations could move and operate.

This situation, however, seems to be upset so dramatically – and of dubious constitutionality – if not directly unconstitutional, as eminent jurists hold – in the past two years, that is, after the Memorandum.

Since the 1980s pretty much fixed rules for a variety of issues have been developed among others – certainly with variations depending on the overall political and ideological direction of each government; these issues included the status of breach of the employment contract and the employee’s compensation, gender equality in industrial relations (Law 1414/84), Sanitation and Safety Conditions of the Employees (Law 1568/85), the protection of special categories of people (Law 1648/86), the operation of Employees’ Councils (Law 1767/88) or free collective bargaining (Law 1876/90).

Balanced regulations were also formed so that flexible forms of employment and working time would be explored, and, more specifically: (1) the introduction of part-time employment, with a written agreement between employers and employees; (2) the implementation of the system of four (4) working groups by companies of continuous operation, with employees’ consent; (3) the establishment of a job rotation system (Paragraph 7, Article 13, Decree 2961/1954); (4) provision for companies of continuous operation, when they have to hire additional personnel who would be employed in two rotating shifts for twelve hours a day so that the company operates during Saturday and Sunday; and (5) new balanced shop opening hours were established, which provided large flexibility.

It should be noted that, in recent years, important initiatives have been taken up, which have been truly implemented, such as: the development of institutions and social dialogue processes between employees and employers or between employees and the state; and the empowerment both of the institution of employees’ councils and free collective bargaining. Thus, the same interested parties, employees and employers, can regulate not only employees’ wages but also almost all issues that concern them. Moreover, there was a development of institutions of conflict ← 14 | 15 → mitigation and resolution of labour disputes, such as: the new Organisation for Mediation and Arbitration (O.M.E.D. in Greek), new reliable mediation procedures, a mixed system of arbitration which is of an auxiliary character (which is neither entirely voluntary nor entirely obligatory) and new procedures of public dialogue. At the same time, the Economic and Social Committee (O.K.E. in Greek; ESC) was formed, a key institutional agency conducting social dialogue for all major financial and social issues and being a key corporatist institutional version to achieve social bargain and social consensus at national level. This agency is a key mechanism and institution that pursues and achieves consensus and policies of social contract, as with this kind of institutions there can be detected seeds of alternative procedures of corporatist enrichment of political decision-making mechanisms within modern parliamentary democracies. Finally, a three-member Administration (involving state, employers and employees) was also appointed to the National Organization for the Occupation of the Work Force (OAED in Greek).

It is of particular importance the fact that in recent years there has been a good rapport between employees and employers, a fact that has both led to the conclusion of biennial national general collective employment agreements (EGSSE in Greek) and ensured conditions of labour peace in recent years.

The new law on collective bargaining passed by the Ecumenical Government in March 1990, since only then it was possible to create the appropriate balance that allowed the modification of the institutional framework. The new framework introduced an entirely new concept of collective bargaining and collective labour disputes. Even the title that the new Law had: “On free collective bargaining” indicates that the legislator has no longer in mind – as s/he did previously – collective disputes but primarily the dialogue between the parties through collective bargaining so that economic interests are regulated and settled and disputes get prevented.

By force of the Memorandum it could be argued that the changes that have been made, especially in collective labour relations, have not only brought individual changes but also led to an overall readjustment and reregulation of the labour market in Greece, which has brought drastic and immediate results. What should be emphasized is that the new Memorandum is only of horizontal cuts in wages and pensions, which may well be reversed in the future. It deconstructs the whole system of collective bargaining and cancels employees’ right of recourse to arbitration. Working conditions in the private sector cease being the subject of bargaining between social partners; they are regulated either by the employer through individual contracts or by governmental intervention. Even the minimum wage of National General Collective Employment Agreement (EGSSE) is also canceled, since it can be decreased whenever the Troika or the government requires it.← 15 | 16 →

← 16 | 17 → Chapter 1: Industrial Relations

1.1 Clarifications of Terminology and Methodology

In international bibliography the terms “labour relations”, “industrial relations” and “professional relations” are used interchangeably, whereas in the Anglo-Saxon literature the term “industrial relations” is mainly used. This term, however, traditionally does not denote the employee-employer relation at an individual level; it rather indicates strictly the organizational dimension of the relationship between employers and employees at a collective level. The term “industrial relations” has formed a research and study field whose object is the web of rules that regulate labour relations as a specific category of social relations between employers and employees within an employment context, namely, the total of behaviours and interactions between the two parties within the framework of production and employment.

The initial definition of the field of “industrial relations” features as a core issue, as it is reasonable, since this definition determines the research range of “industrial relations”. Another issue of particular importance is that the definition restricts the field about the formal and informal aspects, rules, terms, conditions, and relationships underlying the regulation of traditional employment. However, over the past decades a number of developments have fundamentally redefined the scope of this field of study. The developments in industrial relations, which have been designated as “modern anomalies”, have played a decisive role to this direction.

More specifically, the decline of organised trade unions, the development of companies without trade unions, the extension of flexible and informal employment and the destabilization of normal employment model are such phenomena. In addition, the rapid development of human resources management, both as a set of practical applications and as a field of scientific study, as well as the repatriation of quantitative methods and labour economics, which have put labour relations within the framework of labour market, have fundamentally reframed the object of industrial relations.

Consequently, the definition of the object of industrial relations has been broadened, and is now a common place (: a locus or a topos) including not only labour regulation but also the wider context by and within which employment relationships can be determined. There is always a core assumption in industrial relations that employment relationships are competitive and contentious, since there are power relations between employers and employees involved around ← 17 | 18 → and within the employment context, whereas many times the State gets into this relationship as a third actor, as a protagonist, a regulator or an employer. In the past, the object of industrial relations used to get focused exclusively on the collective dimensions of employment, whereas nowadays individual dimensions and views are integrated in the study of industrial relations by some researchers of a particular orientation, especially that of the field of human resources management.

Now regarding a sociological approach to industrial relations, it calls into play its own specialised theoretical and methodological approaches; it is essentially a part of the wider field of industrial sociology or, rather more correctly, part of a specific field of study and research with its own specialised theories and approaches. Nevertheless, the universal, integrated and overall approach to industrial relations and their phenomena is interdisciplinary by its very nature. Some scholars consider industrial relations in terms of reciprocal collaboration between employees and employers, some other approach industrial relations in terms of conflict of interest among social groups; and some other scholars consider industrial relations in terms of class conflict. Based on these underlying premises and accepting them as ideological, three main approaches to the interpretation of industrial relations have been formed: the monist, the pluralist and the radical approach.

First, the monist approach could be summarised in that initiatives, decisions and “leadership” are interconnected and emanate exclusively from management that is based on hierarchy. This hierarchy is also the unique legalised and acceptable agency of rights and power within an organization. This particular view adopts an “organic analogy”, where, on the one hand, the company is considered “the body of an organism” and the management as the head, whereas, on the other hand, employees are considered members that should execute the orders of the “head”, without thinking of or reacting to them. The coordinated collective action of the members of an organism, that is, the employees’ collective trade-union action makes the organism to lose co-ordination of its operation, while conflict is presented and is dealt with as a dysfunctional and disruptive phenomenon.

Second, the pluralist approach addresses those groups that operate within a company in order to dictate them how to “behave” to each other. Within the context of this approach, the two parties – employers and employees – are not dealt with as classes but rather as two parties which, despite the fact that they may be different and have conflict of interests, both have rights and, definitely, common interests and responsibilities. This point of view recognizes the existence and interference of the element of conflict in industrial democracy, to which ← 18 | 19 → it also contributes the role of regulation of conflicting situations or even their transformation into beneficial ones for both the company and economy, through institutionalization of and mechanisms of solution to collective employment differences as well as corporatism.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
labour market policy trade unionism deregulation democratic neocorporatism
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 374 pp.

Biographical notes

Dimosthenis Daskalakis (Author)

Dimosthenis Daskalakis is Professor of Sociology at the Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. He has been Member of the Senate, Dean and Head of the Faculty of Pedagogy, Director of the Social Sciences Research Laboratory and Director of the Humanistic Studies Section.


Title: Greek Labour Relations in Transition in a Global Context