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Memorandum on ILO Convention 190
ILO Convention 190 deals with the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace and other related matters.

Below we present the memorandum by the Diotima Center on the Draft Law of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs “On Labor Protection – Establishment of an Independent Authority “Labour Inspection” – Ratification of ILO Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace Ratification of ILO Convention 187 on the Framework for the Promotion of Safety and Health at Work – Transposition of Directive (EU)  2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on work-life balance”.

The memorandum with the comments and proposals by Diotima Center was submitted in the context of the hearing of stakeholders, organized by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) on May 25, 2021.

Introductory remarks

We would first of all like to note that the preparation time available was extremely short and therefore we were not able to prepare a more complete position regarding the new provisions and their gender dimensions or consequences.

We would also like to point out that we were invited to the hearing only regarding three parts (I, II, III) and not for the entire draft law which, among other things, includes the ratification of the ILO International Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace, which was a constant demand of the country’s feminist and women’s organizations.  Perhaps due to the extremely limited time of consultation, but also the lack of political will on the part of the competent ministry to meaningfully discuss and listen to the views of civil society.

We consider it extremely problematic that in violation of the rules of correct and effective legislation, both the ratification of the ILO International Convention190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace, as well as the ratification of the ILO International Convention 187 on the framework for the promotion of safety and health at work, as well as the transposition of the two EU Directives (Directive (EU) 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers, and the repeal of Directive 2010/18/EU (on arrangements for leave related to the protection of the family), are carried out with a single draft law, which furthermore introduces negative changes of historical dimensions in the labor market.

In particular, it abolishes the 8-hour day, disrupts workers’ time, and severely affects trade unionism, and despite what it claims, it will have an adverse effect on the balance of work and family / personal life.

In this context, for Diotima Center, it is of great importance to assess and highlight the gender impact assessment of the draft law, given that a series of regulations are introduced concerning, indicatively:

  • Individual labor law regulations include the introduction of time limits for work and the organization of working time by increasing the permissible limit of legal overtime and thus introducing two types of flexibility (unpaid overtime on the one hand and the well-known form of flexibility on the other) which are expected to have very negative consequences for all workers, given that the increase in overtime seriously harms health,  safety and personal/family life, especially for employees and especially for women with family responsibilities and dependents. In practice, too, this means reducing wage costs for employers and reducing the income of workers, especially women in already poorly paid and precarious jobs. Additionally, we cannot fail to mention that the increase in working hours and the introduced flexibility in working time directly undermines the objective of reconciling professional and personal/family life.
  • Collective labor law regulations that include changes to Law 1264/1982 on trade unions, the protection of trade union action, strikes and work stoppages, the conclusion of collective labor agreements, etc. which take into account only two parameters: a) the profitability of enterprises and b) competitiveness, leaving aside the work and quality of life of workers and, above all, threatening the very existence of unions/  trade unions since they will not be able to negotiate working conditions with employers and call strikes.
  • The restriction on collective negotiations of working conditions has already been drastically reduced (according to the ILO only 18% of employees are covered by collective labor agreements). The envisaged restriction of the right to strike essentially means that workers will no longer have the incentive to join unions. The draft law, in short, places restrictions on the constitutional right of association and creates a high risk of the disappearance of the basic institution for the defense of the collective interests of workers.

The deterioration of working conditions, the increase in job insecurity, and precariousness are associated (indirectly and directly) with the increase in sexual violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, as we already know from empirical and research data.

Therefore, it is not possible to disconnect the ratification of ILO International Convention 190 from the overall economic, social and political context prescribed by the political stigma of the draft law and its expected consequences. These consequences will not only have an adverse effect on gender issues but will also negatively affect the ability of employees to speak about or report incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Moreover, we cannot escape the fact that further weakening of trade unions will weaken the collective and potentially supportive framework for survivors of sexual harassment. Because it is clear that a broad framework of support is needed, and that survivors should not be left alone to defend themselves in any way and by any means they can.

Comments on PARTS I and II

  • Part I: Ratification of ILO Convention 190 ‘On the elimination of violence and harassment at work
  • Part II: Adoption of measures and arrangements on harassment and violence at work

While, firstly, it is positive to broaden the scope of the regulations on harassment and violence at work,[1] it is highly problematic that on the one hand, the draft law concerns only the private sector and indeed a specific part of it, and on the other hand the fact that the public sector, the agricultural sector, and atypical employment are omitted, as well as self-employed persons, despite the fact that there are relevant provisions in the International Convention.

In addition, there is no provision for undocumented migrant workers, while the Convention provides for horizontal protection of all workers, regardless of the form and type of their work.

As far as the private sector is concerned, it is noted that the draft law not only concerns a specific part of it but also defines the employer’s obligation to take measures only for businesses that employ more than 20 employees, excluding from the relevant regulations the vast majority of businesses and employers in the country for which there are no specific obligations regarding the prevention and treatment of sexual harassment.

In this context it should also be noted that while the International Convention refers to the workplace, the draft law refers exclusively to enterprises, thus limiting the definition of the working environment.

The Article on definitions (4) is also problematic because it does not take into account existing legislation (international, European, and national) and will create a number of problems in the application of the law, especially in cases where existing definitions are more regressive than those contained in existing laws.

In this context, it is characteristic that sexual harassment and gender-based violence are mentioned only in the part regarding the purposes of the Convention, when they should run throughout Part I, and there is no reference to existing laws where the phenomenon is defined in detail. [2]

Also important is the fact that the draft law causes confusion and/or incomprehension by separating discrimination from sexual harassment, and directly contradicts existing legislation and international conventions ratified by Greece because it does not recognize sexual harassment as discrimination based on gender.

An important omission, in our point of view, is the fact that the mechanisms, the standardized/institutional management procedures (SOPs) and the “pathways” of reporting, the prevention actions, as well as the procedures for supporting victims through psychosocial and legal counseling services and through legal aid services are not specified.

It is also striking that there is no reference to the existing Network of Structures of KETHI and the role of the state (due diligence) in the context of the proposed new support arrangements for employees who suffer sexual harassment.

Great confusion is also created in the draft law as to the competent bodies for the management of sexual harassment in the workplace, which as mentioned above constitutes discrimination based on gender, and the reference of the draft law to three (3) competent bodies: the Greek Ombudsman, the Labor Inspection Body (SEPE) and the National Transparency Authority.

In fact, especially with regard to the SEPE, while initially its responsibilities are extended with the provision for the establishment of an independent department for the monitoring of violence and harassment at work (Article 16), then, within the framework of the same draft law, it is abolished and re-established as an independent administrative authority without legal personality under the name “Labour Inspectorate” (Article 100), controlled exclusively by parliament (Article 100). [3]

This provision raises serious concerns not only about the effectiveness of SEPE but ultimately also about the political will for its existence and the role it will be able to play in the future in the context of its new institutional form and its complete disconnection and autonomy from the competent ministry (i.e., the Ministry of Labour).

Also, extremely problematic and contrary to the overall approach of both the UN and the Council of Europe on gender-based violence, its causes, consequences, and measures to combat it, is the provision for the advisory and other competencies of the occupational doctor (Article 8).

We categorically oppose the attempt to medicalize the phenomenon and the attempt to characterize sexual harassment and domestic violence (mental) disease or illness, as well as the role of the occupational doctor in the actions to deal with violence by changing posts or suggesting adjustments to deal with the phenomenon in-house and (re)integrate the survivors.

It is important to provide for in-house/ intra-company policies to combat violence and harassment (Article 9) and the management of internal complaints (Article 10), which should be the subject of collective negotiations (Article 11), and be part of the Corporate Collective Labour Agreement or be drawn up by the employer after consultation with the representatives of the most prevalent trade union organization of the company or with the board of employees.

The problematic point concerns the provision for consultation with all employees if there is no trade union or board of employees, as well as the fact that it is not obligatory for all enterprises to draw up a Labour Regulation. This leaves room for non-compliance with ILO Convention 190, as well as scope for arbitrariness or even silence of incidents reported in the workplace.

It is, therefore, necessary to make provisions also for the case of enterprises where there are no trade unions or works councils, and in particular for small enterprises with fewer than 20 employees, which constitute the vast majority of enterprises in the country.

It is also important to provide that the Labour Inspectorate informs, cooperates, and exchanges data with a) the Department of Gender Equality at Work of the Directorate of Individual Regulations of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, b) the General Secretariat for Demographic and Family Policy and Gender Equality of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and, c) any other public authority that can provide assistance, to the extent of its competence and has all the powers provided for in Article 2 of Law 3996/2011 (Article 17) of the draft law.

In this context and given that this is highlighted in several articles and in the Istanbul Convention (Law 4531/2018), it is necessary to provide for the possibility of cooperation with civil society organizations with known experience in supporting survivors of sexual harassment and action to prevent and address gender-based violence.

It is noted on this occasion that the majority of organizations that support survivors of gender-based violence and vulnerable population groups follow and implement in the context of their internal procedures a specific policy for protection against sexual harassment and abuse (PSEA) as well as relevant protocols, which could be good examples and be used in the context of exchange of experience and know-how with trade unions and employers.

In view of the above, and agreeing with the proposal expressed by a large part of the bodies that participated in the hearing, we consider that this draft law should be withdrawn in order to make the necessary amendments to the problematic points and then resubmitted in order to pass into a separate law the ILO International Convention 190 on sexual harassment.

[1] Article 3 – workers and employees in the private sector, regardless of their contractual status, including those employed under a work contract, independent services, paid mandate, employees through third-party service providers, as well as persons undergoing training, including trainees and apprentices, volunteers, workers whose employment relationship has ended, as well as job seekers.

[2] Indicatively: Law 4531/2018 (Article 40), Law 4604/2019 (Article 2, par. 10 and 11), Law 3896/2010 (Article 2, par. c and d), Law 4443/2016 (Article 2, par. 2 c’ where sexual harassment is defined), etc.

[3] In accordance with Article 100, para. 2. it is stipulated that “The Labour Inspectorate enjoys functional independence, administrative and financial autonomy and is not subject to control or supervision by government bodies, state bodies or other administrative authorities and is subject to parliamentary control, in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament”.


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