It is already a law of the state (: law 4808/21, Government Gazette A 101 / 19.6.21) the enactment of new (and massively reformed) provisions that regulate labor issues. Among its provisions is one that refers to the management of working time. A provision that, on its own, became the leading argument of the opponents of the relevant bill. Is it fair?
This issue has already occupied us, repeatedly. It has been more than a year since the signatory reviewed the issues relating to eight-hour working days, that arose since its inception. Immediately afterwards, for the first time in our country, a specific provision for the regulation of working time was proposed- also by the signatory. A proposal by the standards of Germany and Cyprus, which successfully utilized it – for the benefit of both employees and businesses.
The legislative background
Was the current regulation of working time an inspiration of the executive authority “to abolish the eight-hour work day”, “to abolish overtime” or “to pay the overtime of the employees on their day off”, as it is accused?
Directive 2003/88 concerns the management of working time. It aims to improve the safety, hygiene and health of employees at work. It ensures that adequate rest periods are available for employees and it specifies the minimum daily and weekly rest periods. It also explicitly specifies the maximum limits of weekly working time (48 hours-including overtime). In contrast, the maximum daily working time limits (13 hours) are calculated a contrario.
The most important provision (and the basis for the management of working time): in a period of seven (7) days, the working time may not exceed, on average, 48 hours (including overtime – Article 6 par. b’).
The implementation of this Directive, due to its increased importance, is not left to “the patriotism of the Greeks”. In a series of decisions, the ECJ imposes an obligation on Member States to prevent any exceeding of the maximum weekly working time (Case: C-55/18, paragraph 43) but also to ensure that workers have minimum daily and weekly rest periods and the compliance with the upper limit of the average weekly working time (Cases: C-14/04, Paragraph 53, C 484/04, Paragraphs 39 and 40, C-243/09, Paragraph 64).
National legislation on the management of working time
The above Directive is the one that was the basis for the transposition of this system into our national law (Article 42 of Law 3986/2011), in a completely distorted way and in practice (as it turned out) – absolutely inapplicable. And this is because: if there was no trade union organization in a business, it was not possible to implement a working time management system (!!!).
In any case, this provision provided for two alternatives:
(a) First alternative: Ability to provide additional working hours for a specific period (: increased employment) and subtract them, respectively, from the working hours of another period (: reduced employment). The period of periods of increased and reduced employment may not exceed a total of 6 months in a period of 12 months (Article 42 §1 par. a) and
(b) Second alternative: Ability to allocate 256 working hours within a calendar year to periods of increased work that cannot exceed 32 weeks per year. During the remaining period of the year, work is provided of reduced duration, respectively, in relation to the maximum legal time limits (article 42 §2 par. a).
The new regulation
The inclusion in the management of working time at the request of the employee
The new regulation (a. 59 §1, law 4808/2021) does not change at all the immediately above framework for the regulation of working time; it only removes the (unreasonable for its implementation) condition of the existence of a trade union organization (or a possible dispute on its part) in the business to be implemented.
In this case, a relevant request of the employee is sufficient: “If there is no trade union or an agreement is not reached between the union and the employer, the working time management system can be applied, at the request of the employee, after a written agreement… ».
Is the eight-hour work day management adversely affected?
Obviously not! In order to prove so, let’s take a look at the relevant provision (art. 55 §1):
“In all sectors of work and in all sectors of economic activity, full-time employment is set at forty (40) hours per week, which may be divided into five-day or six-day weekly work, in accordance with the applicable provisions, collective labor agreements or arbitral awards. When a five-day weekly work system is applied, the full conventional working hours amount to eight (8) hours per day, while when applied is a system of six days a week, the full working hours are six (6) hours and forty (40) minutes per day… »
Is overtime and “overwork” pay adversely affected?
On the contrary, the wages arising from the overtime hours (article 58) are higher in relation to what is in force today. Indicative (for five-day work):
(a) The 41st to the 45th hour per week is paid increased by 20%.
(b) For more than 45 hours per week (and up to three per day & 150 per year) each hour is paid increased by 40%.
(c) In cases where exceptional permission is granted by the competent body, in excess of the maximum, annual, limits, each hour is paid increased by 60%.
(d) For each hour of illegal overtime (ie beyond the above limits and / or for those that did not comply with the legal requirements) each hour is paid increased by 120%.
The Greek legislator, succumbing to pressures in 2011, provided (?) the possibility for businesses (: a. 42 Law 3986/2011) to proceed with the management of the working time of their employees if, exclusively, there was a union of employees; if there was not, not even a relevant discussion could take place.
With the extensive reform of provisions of the labor legislation, an attempt was made to re-approach (also) the regulation of working time. The pressures exerted on the parliamentary majority, as well as the aforementioned, blunt, accusations addressed to it, led to a simple re-approach of the legislation a decade ago. “Same old, same old” that is, with the only difference that the specific management will be possible to be requested by the employees themselves.
And the needs of the business?
Don’t even mention them!
Businesses, moreover, do not have a voice; they are neither able to occupy the Syntagma Square nor to block the Parliament…
A historic opportunity seems to have been lost.
We look forward to the next.-
P.S. A brief version of this article has been published in MAKEDONIA Newspaper (July 4, 2021).
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is not (and is not intended to) constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be offered by a competent attorney and after the latter takes into consideration all the relevant to your case data that you will provide them with. See here for more details.