Between a quarter and a fifth of employees in Greece are union members. There are only two major confederations, ADEDY covering the central, local and regional government, and GSEE covering the rest. Below this level there is a hierarchy of union structures, which are organisationally fragmented and politically divided.
There are no official figures for the number of trade union members in Greece but the trade unions’ own figures indicate they had 612,000 voting members in 2016. In relation to the total number of employees, which was 2,472,100 in the third quarter of 2016, this produces a union density figure of 25.8%. However, ICTWSS database estimates that around a fifth of union members are unemployed or retired and are not employees. Taking that into account, it calculates union density in Greece in 2016 at 20.2%.
There are two main trade union confederations in Greece: the GSEE, which organises private sector employees and employees in firms and sectors under public control, and ADEDY, whose membership is only civil servants, although these include teachers as well as those working in ministries and local authorities.
The GSEE had 358,761 voting members eligible at its congress in March 2016 and ADEDY reported it had some 253,564 voting members at its congress in November 2016.
In the past the two confederations expressed a wish to work together with the intention of moving towards an eventual merger. Although there are already a number of institutions which are run jointly by the two confederations including the research institute INE GSEE-ADEDY, there has been little recent progress towards a merger.
Greek law provides for three levels of trade union organisation. At the base are the primary level unions, of which there were 3,400 in 2007. A primary union must have at least 21 members. It has legal autonomy and its operations are governed by law. In the past the primary level unions were largely occupationally based and often limited to a small geographic area. However, many are now company-based groupings and they can also be branches of larger national or regional bodies. The result is that, while, in theory, there may be several unions in a particular workplace, in practice, this is less common than in the past.
Above the primary level unions are the second level organisations. These are either industry or occupational federations, or regional organisations, known as labour centres. The primary level unions decide which secondary organisation to join, and in the GSEE this determines how the primary union sends its delegates to the national congress, whether through the industry/occupationally-based federations or through the geographically-based labour centres.
Finally there are the third level bodies, the confederations, composed of second level organisations. The GSEE is made up of around 150 second level organisations, and its website states it has 73 industry/occupationally-based federations and 81 regional labour centres. ADEDY is organised mainly on a ministry or administration basis and lists 47 federations on its website.
The largest industry and occupational federations in GSEE are: the federation for bank employees (OTOE) with 36,562 voting members; the federation of private employees (OIYE) with 22,709; and the building union (OMOIKEL with 12,139. The largest ADEDY federations are: the teachers’ federation (DOE) with 59,625 voting members; and the local government workers (POE-OTA) with around 37,500.
One result of this structure is that trade unions in Greece are highly fragmented. Although the union confederations have made some efforts to reduce the fragmentation, for example by encouraging co-operation among industry federations, progress so far has been slow.
One reason may be that the financial pressures which have led to mergers in other countries have been less noticeable in Greece, as Greek unions (at second and third level) did not depend entirely on direct income from the membership for funds. They received an important contribution from the state through a fund into which all workers, whether unionised or not, contributed. This helped to pay for equipment, staff salaries and some overheads, such as postage and telephone costs. However, in November 2012, during the financial crisis that hit Greece, the contributions to the fund were cut by 50% and the OEE the institution responsible for providing finance the trade unions, among other things, was abolished. A new source of funding for trade unions was subsequently established within the budget of the public employment service (OAED), but since 2012 the amount provided has been sharply reduced. 
The trade union movement in Greece has traditionally been highly politicised with the major political parties represented directly in the trade union movement through organised political groupings. Recently these divisions have become very bitter and, in 2019, action by supporters of the PAME grouping (linked to the Communist Party) led to three-yearly congress of GSEE in 2019 being twice abandoned after they occupied the congress premises, preventing the election of a new leadership. The president of the GSEE Yiannis Panagopoulos described these actions as “the violent obstruction of the electoral process” and “an attack on the core of democratic politics”.
Because a new executive committee was not elected in 2019, the running of the GSEE is in the hands of an interim administration approved by the court in April 2019. In the 45-strong GSEE executive elected at the previous conference in 2016, the largest block, 15 members, came from the grouping aligned with the social democratic PASOK party, with the grouping linked to PAME in second place with 10 seats and a grouping linked to the centre-right New Democracy party in third place holding eight seats. A grouping linked to the left-wing SYRIZA party, which was in government at that stage held seven seats. The remaining five seats were in the hands of other political groupings.
The 85-strong leadership of ADEDY is similarly divided, although here the largest group, with 18 seats in executive elected in 2016, is linked to New Democracy. The PAME-linked group is in second place with 15 seats, the PASOK group has 14 and the SYRIZA-linked group has 13, leaving four other smaller groupings with a total of 25.
The lack of precise figures makes it difficult to record detailed changes in trade union membership. However, the longer-term trends seem clear and show a marked difference between the public and private sectors. While union density in the private sector is now less than half the level it was in the mid-1980s, in the civil service and local government it is now 50% higher than it was 20 years ago. Overall, one third of union density has been lost. As a result, there are now major differences in the level of organisation between sectors of the Greek economy. While union density remains relatively high in the public sector and industries under public control or recently privatised, it is low in the fully private sector, which is dominated by very small companies.
Membership figures may become more precise in the future, as the New Democracy government elected in 2019 stated in July 2019 that it planned to introduce an electronic register of trade unions and trade unionists “with the aim of capturing and this addressing the organisational fragmentation of trade unionism”. (It will also be used in strike ballots.) However, it is uncertain how this will operate and whether it will be introduced.
It is also unclear how the very bitter political differences within the unions will play out in the longer term,
 Living and working in Greece: Eurofound, by Penny Georgiadou, (INE GSEE), July 2018
 J. Visser, ICTWSS Data base. version 5.1. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), University of Amsterdam. September 2016
 Living and working in Greece: Eurofound, by Penny Georgiadou, (INE GSEE), July 2018
 Christos A Ioannou 2007, Challenges and Future Directions in Hellenic Industrial Relations, IREC 2007, Athens CIRN AUEB 27.7.2007
 Living and working in Greece: Eurofound, by Penny Georgiadou, (INE GSEE), July 2018
 For more on trade union density trends and structures see From Divided “Quangos” to Fragmented “Social Partners”: The Lack of Trade Union Mergers in Greece, by Christos A Ioannou in Restructuring Representation, The Merger Process and Trade Union Structural Development in Ten Countries, pp. 139-164, Jeremy Waddington (editor)P.I.E-Peter Lang, Brussels 2005
Collective bargaining takes place at national, industry and company level, and in the past the national agreement provided a basis from which improvements could be negotiated. However, changes introduced following the 2010 crisis and the provision of IMF and EU financial support, have fundamentally altered the bargaining structure, although some of the crisis measures were reversed in 2018.
The main levels of collective bargaining in Greece have been: national level, covering the whole economy; industry/occupation level, covering specific industrial sectors or specific occupations; and company level. Until 2010, the framework for negotiations was provided by legislation passed in 1990, which introduced free collective bargaining in which conciliation, mediation and arbitration through the official organisation for mediation and arbitration, OMED, played an important role.
Under this structure, national level bargaining produced a national collective agreement, known under its Greek initials as the EGSSE, which set the national minimum wage, as well as dealing with other broader issues like training or teleworking. Bargaining at industry or occupational level built on this basis to provide better pay and conditions for individual groups of workers. A study undertaken at OMED shows that there were around 100 industry level and 90 occupational level agreements, covering groups such as employees in the chemical industry or the hospitality industry (industry agreements) or those working as graduate designers or musicians and performers (occupational agreements). Below this, company-level agreements could produce further improvements for employees of particular companies.
However, this structure was fundamentally changed by the legislation introduced during the crisis, which almost overwhelmed the Greek economy and led to the initial IMF and EU financial bail-out in May 2010. All levels of bargaining were affected as governments sought, through wave after wave of legislation, to meet the conditions set out in three separate economic adjustment programmes which the EU and IMF imposed in return for financial support.
At national level, the national collective agreement (EGSSE) now has much less importance than it had in the past. Legislation passed in November 2012 (Law 4093/2012) removed its role in setting the national minimum wage. This is now set by the government after consultation with employers and unions (see below}. More generally, under the November 2012 legislation, the terms of the national collective agreement relating to pay only apply to those employers who are members of employers’ associations belonging to the national employers’ associations signing the agreement – previously they applied across the whole of the private sector. Only terms relating to issues other than pay continue to have universal application across the private sector.
The 2018 national collective agreement, signed on 28 March 2018, reflects this reduced status. It is largely limited to confirming that the existing arrangements covering issues such as overtime and leave will continue to apply, and that the parties will work together on policies to aid a fair transition to a low carbon economy. It also includes a commitment to set up a series of working groups, including one on collective bargaining.
The impact of industry and occupational level agreements has also been much reduced, although some of the changes have subsequently been reversed.
Legislation passed in October 2011 (Law 4024/2011) permitted company level agreements to set terms and conditions which were worse than those applying in the corresponding industry or occupational level agreements. This, together with other changes, produced a major shift away from industry and occupational agreements, as shown by the figures of collective agreements registered with the ministry of labour. There were 65 industry and occupational agreements in 2010, but this fell to 14 in 2018 (see table). Initially the number of company-level deals rocketed, reaching 976 in 2012, after the new legislation was introduced, but they subsequently fell away and returned to earlier levels, for example just 155 in 2018.
Number of collective agreements: 2010 to 2018
Industry and occupational
Source: Συλλογικεσ Συμβασεισ Εργασιασ (Collective Labour Agreements) http://www.ypakp.gr/ (Accessed 31.07.2019)
However, these figures relate to a situation which has now changed because of new legislation (Law 4472/2017) passed in 2017.This stated that the previous principle under which employees would always benefit from the most favourable contract applying to them – in other words that company agreements could not set worse terms and conditions than those in the industry agreement – would again come into force at the end of economic adjustment programme.
As the economic adjustment programme ended on 20 August 2018, the favourability principle started to apply again on 21 August 2018. (The rules on the extension of collective agreements also changed at the same time – see below.) It is too early to judge the impact of the restoration of the favourability principle in August 2018 but it may mean an increase in the number of industry and occupational agreements.
This is not the only area where legislation introduced during the crisis has subsequently been reversed. In 2011, legislation (Law 4024/2011) removed the right of the minister of labour to extend industry and occupational agreements to employers who were not members of the employers association which signed them. This power had previously been widely used. However, this also changed with the 2017 legislation referred to above (Law 4472/2017). As with the favourability principle, the right to extend collective agreements was restored at the end of the economic adjustment programme – that is from 21 August 2018 onwards.
In order to be extended, an agreement must be signed by employers employing at least 51% of the workers in the industry concerned, with a largely government appointed body determining whether this threshold has been met. The request can be made by either the unions or the employers in the industry concerned but the decision is in the hands of the minister of labour.
The government extended four agreements in September 2018 and by the end of June 2019 13 agreements had been extended, including those covering the tobacco industry, shipping agency staff, banking, employees of foreign airlines, and hotel staff in a number of local areas, including Rhodes.
The changes described above (reducing the importance of the national agreement, ending the favourability principle and halting the extension of agreements) were not the only measures introduced during the crisis, which affected bargaining. The government also changed the law on who could bargain and how long agreements continued to be effective (see next section) and in both areas the measures introduced during the crisis continue to apply. However, legislation (Law 4046/2012) limiting access to the OMED arbitration service – requiring both sides to agree – was found to be unconstitutional in 2014, and each side still has a unilateral right to ask OMED to become involved.
There are no official figures on the proportion of employees covered by collective bargaining. But in the past the unions estimated that 85% of employees were covered by agreements other than the national EGSSE agreement, although other academic estimates were lower at around 65-70%. Before the crisis, a figure of 65% seemed reasonable. However, the fundamental changes in the Greek system of industrial relations during the crisis sharply affected the coverage of collective bargaining in the country, particularly as agreements expired and were not replaced (see below). This led one expert to estimate that coverage in the private sector fell to as low as 10%. Unions are present across the whole of the public sector, but pay has been set by the government rather than through collective bargaining.
Overall the ICTWSS database estimated bargaining coverage at 25.5% in 2016 but considered that this might be an overestimate because of overlapping agreements.
The impact on coverage of the reversal of some of the changes introduced during the crisis remains uncertain. However, it is likely that the reintroduction of the possibility of extending agreements will have the largest immediate numerical effect.
There is an economic and social council in Greece (OKE), which consists of an employers’ and employees’ group (from the union confederations GSEE and ADEDY), as well as a group representing other interests, such as the professions, agriculture and the disabled. Its role in the crisis was limited, as governments frequently acted without consulting unions or employers.
Who negotiates and when?
Collective bargaining, in most cases, takes place between employers’ federations or individual employers on one side and the unions on the other. Each agreement is signed by the most representative union in the company or industry, defined as the union with the largest number of voting members. The national level EGSSE agreement is signed on the union side by GSEE, although this no longer sets the minimum wage (see below).
One of the changes introduced during the crisis was to allow groups of employees, rather than unions, to sign company-level agreements. Under Law 4024/2011 these “associations of persons” can sign company level collective agreements, irrespective of the size of the company, provided at least 60% of the employees belong to them, and there is no union in the company. At the height of the crisis they played a major negotiating role. Analysis of the 976 company-level agreements signed in 2012 found that almost three-quarters (72.6%) had been concluded by non-trade union “associations of persons”, 17.4% by company-level union bodies and 10.0% by higher union bodies. The same analysis also showed that they mostly led to lower wages. In two-thirds of cases where agreements were signed by “associations of persons”, pay was reduced to the new national minimum wage – in other words, following the cut in the value of the minimum wage, 22% lower than the previous rate.
It is unclear whether associations of persons are still playing such a prominent role, as the number of company agreements has fallen sharply.
In the past, agreements normally lasted for a year, although longer agreements of two years or more were also possible and there were no fixed limits. However, Law 4046/2012 changed this, setting a minimum length of one year and a maximum of three. Potentially more significant, this legislation also reduced the length of time that the terms of collective agreements apply after the agreements themselves expire from six months to three months. Terms relating to basic pay, payments linked to service and allowances related to dependent children, education and hazardous work continue to apply after three months, but only as part of each individual’s contract of employment.
National agreements used to last two years, but since 2013 they have been for a year (although the 2014 agreement was extended in 2015). In contrast to other agreements, the national agreement lasts for six months after its expiry date (Law 4320/2015).
The subject of the negotiations
Negotiations can cover a wide range of topics, including issues like training or works regulations, as well as pay.
Greece has a national minimum wage. This used to be fixed by agreement between the unions and the employers at national level. However, this changed as a result of the crisis. It is now set by the government rather than through negotiation, although, following changes to the legislation in 2018, there is a precise process for consulting employers and unions, as well as labour market and industrial relations experts. The first national minimum wage under this new procedure was introduced on 1 February 2019, the first increase since 2012. The lower rate for the under-25s, which was introduced in 2012, was abolished at the same time.
 The evolving structure of collective bargaining in Europe: Greece, Matina Yannakourou, 2005
 This is based on an estimate made by Ioannou 2004 (Indicators Figures and Estimates on Greek Industrial Relations – Report for the project 'Quality industrial relations' (ZKB2327), HIVA - Work and Organisation Sector, Atrecht College, Catholic University of Leuven, March 2004) for the year 1996. There has been no new estimate since.
 Collective bargaining decentralisation and wage adjustment for internal devaluation, by Christos A. Ioannou, in Greek Employment Relations in Crisis edited by Horen Voskeritsian, Panos Kapotas, Christina Niforou
 The Role and Impact of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions (ESC‐Sis) in the Response to the Global, Financial, Economic and Jobs Crisis, Draft Working Document, ILO, December 2013
 Ch. Ioannou, K. Papadimitriou. Collective bargaining in Greece in 2011 and 2012: Tendencies, disruption and prospects, 2013 (Organisation for Mediation and Arbitration – OMED). In Greek.
The local ‘primary level’ unions are the most important form of employee representation in Greece. They have clear legal rights covering information, consultation and negotiation, although, as a result of the crisis, non-union bodies have been given negotiating powers. The law also provides for a works council structure. But in reality, works councils are only found in a few companies, and where they exist, they work closely with the local union.
The legal rights which the local union, the primary level union organisation, exercises in the workplace have, until recently, provided the key to the representation of employees in Greece. Primary level union organisations have extensive rights to information and consultation under the 1982 Trade Union Democracy Act (Law 1264/1982), and in 1990 these rights were extended to negotiation (Law 1876/1990).
Works councils can exist alongside the primary level unions, under legislation passed in 1988 (Law 1767/1988), but their position is clearly less powerful than that of the unions and they have not been widely set up, other than in larger companies. (The rules are also different in the "state sector" such as public utilities and transport.) In reality, only a few companies have works councils, and if there is no union, there will generally not be a works council.
The crisis has also resulted in the emergence of another body representing workers, the so-called “associations of persons”. Although it has been possible to set up associations of persons since 1982, before 2011 they could only have a temporary existence – normally six months; they could only be set up in small companies – fewer than 40 employees; and they could not sign collective agreements. However, under the arrangements introduced in 2011 (Law 4024/2011) there is now no limit on how long they operate and they can sign collective agreements for companies of any size, provided there is no union in the company and 60% of the workforce belongs to the association of persons. Those representing the associations of persons have no permanent mandate and no protection against mistreatment by the employer. In the period 2011 to 2013, they were used to promote increasingly decentralised bargaining and pay cuts (see section on collective bargaining).
In addition to these bodies, health and safety delegates should be elected in workplaces with more than 20 employees and a health and safety committee should also be set up in workplaces with more than 50 employees.
Figures from Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey show that 14% of establishments in Greece with at least 10 employees have some form of official employee representation. In most cases this will be through the unions at the company, but it may be through the works council or through an association of persons. The Greek figure is less than half the EU28 average of 32%. As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations are much more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. The survey shows 48% establishments with more than 250 employees having representation, and 31% of those with between 50 and 249 employees. However in smaller workplaces in Greece, those with between 10 and 49 employees, only 12% have employee representation.
Numbers and structure
A primary level trade union with members at the workplace has a range of rights, irrespective of the number of members or employees, although to be a separate union it must have at least 21 members.
The law lays down clear rules as to how primary level unions should operate. They must elect an executive committee, which should include a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. There are no rules as to how many members there should be on the union executive committee, but the law does stipulate how many members in a workplace are given protection against dismissal. These numbers increase with the size of the workplace (see table).
Number of protected union committee members
up to 200
The union committee meets as required but union workplace representatives should be able to meet the employer at least once a month.
Where there is no union, the employees themselves can come together to establish an association of persons, although this body can only sign agreements if at least 60% of the employees belong to it (see above). According to guidance issued by the ministry of labour, an association of persons can be set up by as few as five employees and should have at least two elected representatives.
Works councils can only be set up in larger workplaces, with 50 employees or more. All those with a contract of employment are counted, irrespective as to whether it is full or part-time. Agency workers are not included in the calculation. (Works councils can, in theory, also be set up in workplaces with between 20 and 49 employees if there is no union. However, in practice, this does not occur.)
The request to set up a works council must be made either by the primary level union or by 10% of the workforce. They are elected by the whole workforce and consist only of employees. (There are no representatives of the employer.) The number of works council members increases with the size of the workplace (see table).
Number of works council members
less than 300
The works council should meet at least once a month, and should meet the employer once every two months, or more frequently if either side requests it.
Tasks and rights
As well as the basic trade union tasks such as collecting trade union subscriptions, union workplace representatives in Greece have information, consultation and negotiating rights, although these are defined fairly generally.
The union’s information and consultation rights begin with the monthly meeting with the employer where the two sides should "attempt to resolve any problems relating to workers or their union organisation". Trade union representatives can also be present at inspections carried out by the ministry of labour.
In addition, as part of the negotiating process, the trade union representatives have a right to ask for information on the economic position and plans of the company, as well as its personnel policies.
Issues where the union representatives should be consulted in advance include large-scale redundancies, changes in the legal form of the business, and changes in working conditions, and the two sides should try to reach an agreement through negotiation.
The union at the workplace also has a more general negotiating role.
In the absence of a union, an association of persons at the workplace has the right to negotiate, but only if 60% of employees belong to it.
The rights of the works council at the workplace are more extensive, where such a body exists, including both information and consultation and some co-decision making.
The works council should be kept informed of the overall economic position of the business, including its annual report and accounts. It has rights to advance information on:
changes in the legal form of the business;
any transfer or major change of production capacity;
the introduction of new technology;
changes in the structure of the workforce including increases or decreases;
the planning of any overtime; and
yearly health and safety investment plans.
The works council also has the right to make proposals on improving productivity and working conditions.
In addition, there are a number of areas where the works council is able to take decisions "in agreement with" the employer. These cover:
the use of new technology;
the monitoring of employees’ attendance and behaviour;
the return to work of those who have suffered an accident at work;
health and safety rules; and
social and cultural activities.
If there is no agreement on these issues the dispute is to be settled through the mediation and arbitration service OMED.
Where there is no trade union, the works council also has consultation rights over large scale redundancies and variations in working time – as already stated, this reflects more a theoretical than a real possibility.
The predominance of the union channel for decision-making is emphasised by the fact that all these areas can be settled through negotiated agreements between the employer and the union, and that, if such a negotiated agreement is reached, it takes precedence over any arrangements agreed with the works council.
Election and term of office
Elections to the executive committee of the primary level trade union must take place at least every three years. The voting should be at an assembly of the members and should be secret.
Representatives of an association of persons should also be elected. There is no specific term of office.
Works council members are elected every two years in a secret ballot in an assembly of the workforce. Candidates must have at least two months’ service, and employers and managers are not eligible to stand.
Protection against dismissal
Both works council members and a limited number of union representatives benefit from protection against dismissal. They can only be dismissed in certain tightly defined circumstances, such as the disclosure of secret information or the use or threat of violence or abusive language towards the employer. There is no specific protection for representatives of an association of persons.
Time-off and other resources
The president, vice-president and general secretary of the union in a workplace are each entitled to three days a month time off if there are less than 500 employees in the workplace. In workplaces with 500 employees or more, this goes up to five days a month. However, this time off is unpaid.
The union is entitled to the use of a notice board. And provided that there are at least 80 employees, the employer should provide the union with the largest number of members in the workplace with a meeting room (meetings to take place outside working hours). Where there are more than 100 employees, the employer should provide office space to the union with the largest membership.
The chair and all other members of the works council are entitled to two hours off a week for works council business.
There are no specific time-off rights for representatives of an association of persons.
The works council must be given access to a notice board and should have office space in workplaces with more than 100 employees. The works council can also, with the agreement of the employer, use external experts, particularly on health and safety questions.
Members of the works council have a legal right to 12 days paid leave for trade union training during their two-year period of office.
Representation at group level
In groups of companies the works councils of the different subsidiaries can appoint some of their number as representatives to co-ordinate their activities.
Employee representatives at board level in Greece are only found in some state-owned companies.
There is no legislative basis for employee representation at board level in the private sector. Only state-owned companies have employee representatives on their boards.
Employees elect one member onto the boards of these companies. In practice it is the political groupings in the unions who put forward the candidates and seek support from employees.
Privatisation, which has been an important element of the measures required under the bail-out, together with government changes in the corporate governance of state-owned companies have reduced the number of employee representatives at board level. For example, when the formerly state-owned telecommunications company OTE was privatised, it lost its employee board members.
In line with the key role played by the union at workplace level in Greece, it is the local union organisation which has priority in choosing European level representatives.
European Works Council
Greek members of the special negotiating body (SNB) are chosen in the following order of priority: by trade union organisations, by the works council, or, as a last resort, by a ballot of all employees. The legislation does not specify whether or not the individuals must be employees of the company.
The position is the same for members of an EWC set up under the fallback procedure in the annex to the directive, except that in this case the individuals must be company employees.
Greek members of the special negotiating body (SNB) are chosen by the union organisation in the company. Only if there is no union are they chosen by the works council; and if there is no union or works council by a ballot of all the employees. The legislation does not specify whether or not the individuals must be employees of the company.
The position is the same for Greek members of the SE representative body set up under the annex to the directive, and again the legislation does not specify whether or not they must be employees of the company.
The situation is slightly different for choosing employee board members under the terms of the annex to the directive. The Greek legislation does not lay down a national method for making the choice, but leaves the selection in the hands of the SE representative body.
Further information on the national SE legislation can be found here.
Health and safety representation in Greece is provided through separately elected health and safety representatives or a health and safety committee in larger companies. The committees are employee bodies but they or the health and safety representative should meet the employer on a regular basis.
Basic approach at workplace level
The employer is responsible for health and safety in the workplace, and, although in larger companies there is an obligation to make use of health and safety specialists and works doctors, this does not remove this responsibility.
Employee health and safety bodies
In smaller companies, employees have the right to have a health and safety representative and in larger companies there is a health and safety committee (Επιτροπής Υγείας και Ασφάλειας των Εργαζομένων (Ε.Υ.Α.Ε.))
Numbers and structure
In companies employing 50 people or fewer, there is a single safety representative, although the way he or she is chosen varies depending on whether the company employees 20 or more. In companies with more than 50 employees a health and safety committee can be elected. The size of the committee varies with the number of employees, as follows.
Number of employees
Number of members
21 to 100
101 to 300
301 to 600
601 to 1,000
1,001 to 2,000
Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 17% of workplaces in Greece had health and safety representatives and 10% had a health and safety committee. These are well both below the EU-28 averages, which are 58% for health and safety representatives and 21% for health and safety committees. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)
In practice, the situation may be worse than this, as in a follow-up study on worker participation in the management of health and safety EU-OSHA found that “a significant number of companies reported having some kind of worker representation although they had none”, and concluded that, “the vast majority of companies do not have worker representation at all”.
Tasks and rights
Both the health and safety representative and the health and safety committee have an advisory role. Their main responsibilities are:
to look at working conditions in the company, monitor compliance with health and safety provisions and make proposals for improvement;
where there are serious accidents or other occurrences to make proposals as to how they could be avoided in the future; and
to assist with risk assessment in the company.
The health and safety representative or the health and safety committee (depending on the size of the company) should be informed by management about accidents and occupational diseases, as well as the introduction of new production processes and working methods, in as far as they have an impact on health and safety. They are able to call on the employer to respond appropriately to any imminent and serious threat, including by halting production. They can also approach the labour inspectorate if they consider the employer’s approach on health and safety to be insufficient.
There should be regular joint meetings with management (see below) and minutes of these meetings should be kept.
Frequency of meetings
The health and safety representative or the health and safety committee should meet the employer or the employer’s representative once every three months, within the first 10 days of the quarter and both sides should inform the other of the issues they wish to raise at least three days before the meeting.
Election and term of office
In companies with fewer than 20 employees the health and safety representative is chosen by a majority of employees in an informal way.
In larger companies more detailed election procedures are laid down. Where there is a works council, which can be set up in companies with 50 employees or more (20 or more in some circumstances), it chooses the members of the health and safety committee. Where there is no works council – the normal situation – the members of the committee or the health and safety representative are elected at a general meeting of the company’s employees.
The term of office is two years.
Resources, time off and training
The health and safety representative or, in larger companies, the members of the health and safety committee have an entitlement to paid time off for their duties. This should not be less than 8.3 hours a year for a company employing up 20 people, 16.7 hours a year for a company employing between 21 and 50 people and 25 hours a year for companies employing more than 50 people. This does not include the quarterly meetings with the employer.
They also have the right, with the agreement of the employer, to request the assistance of outside experts.
The health and safety representative and the members of the health and safety committee also have the right to appropriate training although the details are not specified in the legislation.
Protection against dismissal
The health and safety representative and the members of the health and safety committee have legal protection against dismissal. They can only be dismissed in certain closely defined circumstances, such as the disclosure of secret information or the use or threat of violence or abusive language towards the employer.
However, the reality may sometimes be very different to the legal situation. The EU-OSHA report on worker participation in the management of health and safety found cases where participation in a health and safety committee “was the reason for a negative performance evaluation or the dismissal of an employee”.
Other elements of workplace health and safety
Legally all employers, even the smallest are required to make use of the services of a health and safety specialist (technician), and larger companies, those with 50 or more employees, must use the services of an occupational physician (works doctor) as well as a health and safety specialist. These services can be provided internally, by direct employees, or externally by a specialist health and safety organisation, or by a combination of these two approaches. If an external organisation is chosen, there must be a written contract and the arrangement must be notified to the Labour Inspectorate.
However, in organisations with fewer than 50 employees operating in industries with lower levels of risk, such as offices, shops and restaurants, employers can assume the duties of the health and safety specialist provided they have had appropriate training. In larger organisations and those with a higher level of risk, the level of training and skill required, as well as the length of time to be spent on health and safety duties, varies in line with the number employed and nature of the industry.
The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Social Solidarity (Υπουργείο Εργασίας, Κοινωνικής Ασφάλειας & Κοινωνικής Αλληλεγγύης), through its Directorate for Safety and Health at Work (Γενική Διεύθυνση Υγείας και Ασφάλειας στην Εργασία). The Labour Inspectorate (Σώμα Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας, ΣΕΠΕ – SEPE) monitors compliance with health and safety laws and regulations in the public sector and in most private sector industries, although there is a separate inspectorate for mining and quarrying.
Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the Council for Health and Safety at Work (Συμβούλιο Υγείας και Ασφάλειας των Εργαζομένων, ΣΥΑΕ – SYAE). This also includes representatives of key government ministries and local authorities, as well as the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE), the Pan-Hellenic Medical Association (PIS) and the Greek Chemists’ Association EEX. There is also a tripartite consultative body, the Council for Social Control of the Labour Inspectorate (Συμβούλιο Κοινωνικού Ελέγχου Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας, ΣΚΕΕΕ – SKEEE) for the Labour Inspectorate. Finally employers and unions work together in the jointly-run Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Υγιεινής και Ασφάλειας της Εργασίας, ΕΛΙΝΥΑΕ – ELINYAE) which provides expertise, analysis and training on health and safety issues.
Law 3850/10 (GG 84 A/2-6-2010): "Ratification of the Code of Laws on the Health and Safety of Workers."
Ν. 3850/10 (ΦΕΚ 84 Α/2-6-2010) Θέμα: «Κύρωση του Κώδικα νόμων για την υγεία και την ασφάλεια των εργαζομένων.»
 Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016
 Worker participation in the management of occupational safety and health — qualitative evidence from ESENER-2: Country report – Greece, EU-OSHA 2017
Financial participation is still not very widespread in Greece. In the public debate there is no distinctive general attitude towards financial participation. Neither the employees, the employers nor the government side have taken specific initiatives to change this situation.
Financial participation of employees enjoyed much attention and a positive attitude by the government until the beginning of the 1990s.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
Basic Data on Profit-Sharing / Employee Share Ownership
The data on the incidence of employee financial participation found in existing surveys shows Greece as having low rates in both areas.
The Cranet research of 2010 shows that about 9% of all business organisations with more than 100 employees have broad-based employee share ownership schemes.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
In the 1970s, legal provisions for employee financial participation were adopted. Further laws were implemented successively in 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1994, providing tax incentives for both employees and employers.
From 1974 (Law 396/1974) companies transferring shares to their own employees enjoyed favourable tax treatment, provided the shares remained non-negotiable for 5 years after transfer.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1