EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Alumil reduces working time under pretext of economic crisis

About

Country: 
Greece
Author: 
Elena Kousta
Institution: 
Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

In March 2009, the aluminium extrusion group Alumil implemented a reduction of working hours for its entire personnel by 1.5 hours a day and to a corresponding reduction of their salaries by 20%. According to the company, this flexibilisation measure is a result of the ongoing economic crisis affecting the international economy and was necessary in order to secure jobs.

About the company

Alumil Aluminiun Systems, owned by the President of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (Σύνδεσμος Βιομηχανιών Βορείου Ελλάδας, FING), Georgios Mylonas, is one of the biggest industry groups in the field of research, development and the production of aluminum extruded products in Europe. At present, the company employs more than 2,300 workers, about 1,200 of whom are employed in Greece. Moreover, the group owns 26 subsidiaries, including 19 in Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. Production plants are located in the areas of Kilkis, Sérres, Komotini and Xanthi in northeastern Greece, as well as in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.

Reduction in working hours and pay

In March 2009, Alumil asked employees to accept a reduction in working time from eight to 6.5 hours a day, corresponding to a 20% reduction of their salaries for one term, from 1 March to 31 August.

The company management argues that the flexibilisation of working hours is required in order to secure jobs and prevent the company from proceeding to staff reductions due to the general standstill in the country’s construction activities and to the economic recession registered in the sector in eastern European markets, where group subsidiaries are based.

Management further claims that it proceeded to adopting this measure with the employees’ consent, who individually signed a personal agreement with the group.

On the contrary, the Thessaloniki Metal Syndicate (Συνδικάτο Μετάλλου Θεσσαλονίκης) reports that workers were coerced into signing these individual agreements under the threat that they would lose their jobs. According to the same source, this was confirmed by the dismissal of workers who did not accept to sign an agreement to reduce their working hours.

Legislative framework

Law 2639/1998 on the ‘Regulation of industrial relations, establishment of the Labour Inspectorate and other provisions’ (GR9807181F, GR9808185F) sets out the following as regards part-time employment:

in the event of a reduction in business activities, the employer is entitled to implement a shift work scheme in the company, following prior consultations with the workers’ legal representatives.

According to the company employee representatives, this has not happened.

Reaction of trade unions and opposition parties

As expected, this development triggered a chain of intense reactions from the trade unions. It led to an immediate occupation of the offices of FING, mostly by members of the All Workers’ Militant Front (Πανεργατικό Αγωνιστικό Μέτωπο, PAME), as well as to the organisation of a demonstration of trade union bodies in Thessaloniki in northern Greece and to a series of denunciations on reversals in work relations by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπανδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE), the Thessaloniki Labour Centre (ΕΚΑ Θεσσαλονίκης), PAME and opposition parties.

The Chair of GSEE, Giannis Panagopoulos, denounced this change as:

yet another unacceptable action in a long series of anti-labour measures implemented by the employers… however, this particular one is highly symbolic… the businessman who imposed it is no nobody.

Furthermore, Mr Panagopoulos stated that this action has been implemented in spite of the fact that the President of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (Σύνδεσμος Επιχειρήσεων και Βιομηχανιών, SEV), Dimitrios Daskalopoulos, claimed that there should be no abusive changes and that the economic crisis should not be used as a pretext for such action. Moreover, Mr Daskalopoulos argued that businesspeople should not proceed to such measures unless they have exhausted all other alternatives.

Commentary

At a time when workers are being gravely affected by the global economic crisis, the answer to their torments should in no case be dilemmas such as the ‘closure of the company’ or employment reversals, ‘survival of the company’ or collective redundancies. Instead, more attention should be paid to the rigorous control of the implementation of labour legislation and collective employment agreements, adoption of measures to provide more employee protection, the right to work and to social security.

Elena Kousta, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)