Current Situation and Future Trends of the Industrial Relations System and Trade Unions in Greece**

Article excerpt

The Greek industrial relations system for the past decades, mainly in the private sector, has been based on Law 1876 of 1990, which introduced free collective bargaining and independent dispute resolution. Due to the financial crisis, new legislation modified the existing legal framework and led to curtailing collective bargaining and almost eliminating arbitration. These amendments are affecting trade unionism, however only hypotheses of possible scenarios may be formulated, as the country is undergoing an unprecedented financial and political change.

Key words: labor-management relations, trade unions, collective bargaining, dispute resolution, labor law QEL: J51, J52, J53, K31)

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1. Introduction

The Greek industrial relations system during the last twenty years has been shaped by a rather liberal legal framework, mainly in the private sector. The legal framework was based on Law 1876 of 1990 which was unanimously voted by all political parties in the Greek Parliament during the ecumenical, i.e. all party, government. Wages and terms and conditions of employment have been the product of free collective bargaining and, in case of an impasse, resolution was sought by a body of neutral mediators and arbitrators. The social partners have willingly participated in the formation, implementation and the development of the system, as they were members of the committees during the formation of the legal framework, or participated in the boards of directors of organizations with tripartite representation that affected the industrial relations system, as for example, in the board of the independent Organization for Mediation and Arbitration (OMED).

In 2009 the world financial crisis together with the structural problems of the Greek economy created financing difficulties for the Greek state. An enormous government deficit of 32,342 million Euro reaching 13.6 per cent of the GDP and a government debt of 273,407 million Euro reaching a 115.1 per cent of the GDP was provisionally recorded by Eurostat for 2009, in April 2010 (Eurostat, 2010). The newly elected socialist government in October 2009, in order to protect the national economy took preliminary labour market restrictive measures such as the layoff of all employees on a training contract working in the public and the wider public sector, and later on it initiated salary cuts in the public sector by issuing Law 3833/2010 on 15 March 2010. As the measures were not adequate, the government decided to resort to external financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB). On 3 May 2010, the Greek government signed with the three lenders (called "Troika") a "Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies", included in Law 3845/2010 of 6 May 2010, through which, among others, the government had to "reform the legal framework for wage bargaining in the private sector". A series of austere measures followed that had an enormous impact on the industrial relations system (Patra, 2012).

In this paper we will examine the current situation of the industrial relations system and will try to make some projections on the future trends, based on past experiences and the current changes of the economic environment and the legal framework that had a great impact on collective bargaining and therefore on the future of labour unions.

2. Characteristics of the Greek industrial relations

During the last fifty years four basic elements have characterized the Greek industrial relations system. These elements are: (a) a considerable governmental intervention, (b) an intense political orientation of the labour movement, (c) the structural problems of Greek labour unions, and (d) the lack of initiative by the Greek employers in shaping the system (Nikolopoulos, 1988).

Some of these elements have been differentiated during the past decades, as a result of economic and political developments; however, they have certain common characteristics which are worth noting as they have affected the industrial relations system. …