PAME Document: Τhe Fight for Collective Contracts

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PAME Seminar on the Fight for Collective Contracts January 20, 2023

Extracts from the Main Document

The organisation of the struggle for the signing of collective agreements with wage increases – always in combination with the struggle for the abolition of unjust taxes and other urgent measures of protection against inflation – is an immediate priority for trade unions and workers. Labour Minister’s celebrations of alleged wage increases in the last three years are a provocation based on false data. While the inflation is more than 10% the real increase is only 1% instead of the fictitious increase of 12.44% that the government shows for the three-year period 2019 – 2022!

The data of “ERGANI” data center, show that in a total of 2,249,599 employees, 60.5% (!) are paid below 1,000 euros gross. And only 13% (!), i.e. 306,316, are paid more than 1,500 euros gross. This is the bad situation for workers.

The situation is even worse under the real conditions of ‘flexible’ employment and ‘flexicurity’. Just two figures: First, the number of part-time employees, from 305,685 in 2011, shot up to 735,125 in 2021 and, second, the number of redundancies in 2022 reached the astronomical figure of 2,643,224!

That is, we have reached the point where the absolute number of layoffs in one year exceeds the total number of employees, as if every employee is fired at least once in the course of a year and for every hiring there is almost one layoff.

All governments serve the strategy of capital to cut wages he pointed out. The question of cutting wages, and in particular the average wage, the notorious reduction of wage costs is a long-standing demand of the business groups that has become a specific strategy of the EU since 1992. This strategy has been served over time by all bourgeois governments, both liberal and social democratic, in Greece too. The period of the memoranda has acted as an accelerator in the implementation of this strategy by all the governments of PASOK, SYRIZA and ND.

The reduction of the minimum wage in Greece, overnight in 2012, with a Legislative Act, went from 751 euros to 586 euros and 511 euros for workers under 25 years of age, reductions of 22% and 32% respectively.

In combination with the rest of the legislative framework and especially with the implementation of the employers’ monster of the so-called “Associations of Persons” over 1,200 “contracts” were signed in the two years 2012 – 2013 that brought sectoral and company wages down to the tatters of 586 euros.

The bad situation is exacerbated by the great expansion of ‘flexible’ forms of employment, underemployment, the undermining of sectoral agreements, the majority of which have not been signed for over 10 years, the freezing of three-year work raises (standard raise of 10% for anyone with work experience of 3 years, every 3 years), and the dominance of individual contracts.

All of this has led to a dramatic reduction in the average wage over the last decade, a reduction of up to 25%, i.e. it acts as a key instrument of internal devaluation. Based on the data of the National Social Security Agency, from 1,264 euros in 2012 the average gross wage fell to 954 euros in 2021.

A great legacy is the action of the class trade unions and PAME

The militant action of the class trade union movement, the trade unions that are rallied in PAME contrasted with the waiting attitude of the of the GSEE(member of ETUC), which cultivated reduced demands and the corresponding attitude of the ND, PASOK and SYRIZA factions that in some large Federations signed sectoral agreements with wage reductions and abolition of rights in the name of “saving the contracts”.

The great rallying of 530 unions in 2016, for the restoration of collective agreements and the abolition of anti-labour laws, the struggles that took place in sectors for the signing of collective agreements with wage increases and the preservation of rights in large construction sites, in COSCO, in the Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Zone, in enterprises such as in the financial sector and elsewhere.

In the face of this effort in our country, but also in conditions where the struggle for wage increases and Collective Agreements is gaining momentum in many countries in Europe, the bourgeois governments have brought additional obstacles. SYRIZA and ND laws in 2018 and 2019 undermined sectoral collective bargaining agreements, while the ND government brought in the law to put even more obstacles to the signing of collective bargaining agreements and wage increases. It abolished by law the 8-hour working day, enshrined unpaid overtime and generalised the arrangement of working time. It put additional obstacles to trade unions signing contracts with compulsory registration in the state register, new obstacles to calling strikes, etc.

However, not even all this has been able to prevent new, even more massive and promising workers’ trade union struggles that have given important gains in workplaces and sectors, with significant wage increases and the establishment of stable jobs with rights. Such were the sectoral collective bargaining agreement among the construction workers, the first after 12 years, the miners of the Shipbuilding Zone, the COSCO dockers, the delivery workers of the “e-food”, in factories (…)

All this experience must be used in the organization of the struggle now, in order to draw substantial conclusions on the path that workers and their movement must take in order to achieve substantial gains. A path of emancipation from the strategy of capital that wants workers to sacrifice their rights for the growth of the profitability of the business groups. A way to overthrow the anti-worker policies of the bourgeois governments.”

Valuable employer-government ally the GSEE

By the invitation issued by the leadership of the GSEE to the employers’ associations to negotiate the new National General Collective Labour Agreement (EGSE), without touching the reactive legislative framework and the process already initiated by the government for the new small increase in the minimum wage. This is a rigged process within the framework of the “social partnership” exploited by the government, and by SYRIZA, to keep workers trapped in false dilemmas and reduced demands.

The same line is held by the majority of the ADEDY (member of ETUC), where, moreover, they meet and consult with the leadership of the GSEE in the ESC, the EESC, the ETUC, etc.

Also, the attack of the GSEE against the trade unions that are rallying in PAME worksas a weapon in the hands of the employers to put pressure on the workers and lower the bar of demands. It continues to cultivate illusions that within the framework of “social dialogue”, of understanding with the monopoly groups, without conflict with the policy of capital, its power and the forces that serve it, the life of the workers will slowly improve. It is no coincidence that the SEE refused to escalate the struggle after the very massive and successful strike on 9 November, which was led by the demands against inflation and energy poverty, for wage increases and collective agreements.The GSEE’s line is detrimental to the workers and life itself has proven this time and again.

We can reasonably conclude that the laws passed by all governments up to now give direct blows to collective bargaining. After first removing from the unions the possibility of collective bargaining for the signing of EGSEEs, they then hit sectoral collective agreements and favoured the creation of “Associations of Persons” which effectively replaced the company unions. Again, the data shows: In 2004, 223 sectoral collective agreements (CSAs) were signed, in 2011, 65 CSAs and in 2020 only 19 CSAs!

(…) It is safe to estimate that 80% – 85% of workers in our country are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, their salary has as a minimum reference point the minimum wage and therefore their wage situation depends on its current level. The logical consequence of this situation is that the percentage of workers receiving pay at the minimum wage threshold (up to EUR 700) is 35.1%.

Despite all the obstacles of the laws, we did not give up and we had results. We are not waiting for “messiahs” and “saviors” to solve our problems, we choose to fight.

We have seen the play that is currently being played out in election time by ND, SYRIZA, PASOK/KINAL before.

ND promises crumbs for the minimum wage. The crumbs will go up in smoke because of inflation (…) They do not undo anti-worker laws, such as the frozen 3-year terms that keep wages at the lowest levels. Recall that 3year are essentially a 10% seniority bonus given in the form of a raise each time for anyone who completes three years of service with any employer and specialty and up to three 3-years. For example, an employee who in 2012 was paid €751 would now have 3 three-year service years and should receive €1,000.

(…) At the same time, the New Democracy Party is pre-election announcing for the public sector a new pay scale for 2024, trying to hide that this will have the logic of bonuses and will be linked to targeting and reactive evaluation.

SYRIZA may now have picked up its old song of supposedly going to abolish anti-labour laws, but it was saying the same thing before it became government last time. It kept all antiworkers laws, and imposed new ones against the workers. For the downgrading of collective bargaining agreements, obstacles to their implementation, and laws to restrict strikes. As a government, SYRIZA rejected the trade unions’ proposal on the Collective Contracts. It is 100% in line with the strategy of capital. The examples are many, on the auctions of homes to the banks, on the situation with medicine and parallel exports, on the role of the imperialist mechanisms, the EU, NATO.

We must choose the path of struggle centred on our needs and forward the framework of struggle for:

— The repeal of all anti-worker laws on collective bargaining and wages.

— The reintroduction of collective bargaining as a starting point for raising the minimum wage. Clause of wage adjustment based on inflation and nominal increase of the minimum wage demanded by the unions, which exceeds 850 euros in the current data (official inflation at 10%).

— The restoration of conquests such as the three-year contracts, the principle of more favourable contract, Sunday holidays, overtime pay.

— In the public sector, the restoration of the 13th and 14th salaries, the granting of all salary scales, the abolition of the unacceptable separation in salary progression according to the category of education, etc.

— Unemployment benefit at 80% of the minimum wage.

— Abolition of unacceptable segregation in the termination of contract (dismissal) with or without notice.

— Substantial protection of working women and maternity.

On this basis, PAME calls on all trade unions to strengthen the struggle for collective bargaining agreements and wage and salary increases in every workplace in order to achieve a nationwide escalation of struggle against this barbarity. PAME calls to militant initiatives, to choose the forms of struggle, to set goals based on the axes of the framework of struggle and the necessary specificity by area and sector, strengthening the framework of demands.

There should be a substantial discussion in the workplaces, with the aim of making the framework of struggle the object of the workers’ struggle, and an effort should be made to set up struggle committees in the workplaces.

We seek through this process of struggle to measure new positive results that will better the lives of workers and improve wage and working conditions.

We want and aim to join the struggle, in the unions, new forces of workers, to improve the functioning and action of the unions, to feed the next struggles from the struggles and experience of today.

Our decisionis to strengthen the path of struggle centred on our needs in conflict and rupture with the policies that are destroying our lives and the needs of our families.


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