BRUSSELS Dec 21 A Greek law forcing employers
to seek government approval for mass layoffs is too vague and
violates European Union laws, the EU's top court ruled on
Wednesday, potentially complicating Athens' stance in talks with
The case was brought to the European Court of Justice after
Greek cement maker AGET Iraklis, whose main shareholder is
LafargeHolcim, was prevented in 2013 from making
collective redundancies by the then-government because of the
economic crisis and the high levels of unemployment in the
The court ruled that the Greek law goes against EU rules on
companies' freedom to set up businesses in EU states.
"The Greek legislation is liable to constitute a serious
obstacle to the exercise of freedom of establishment in Greece,"
a note from the court said.
The judges recognised the principle that a government is
entitled to block mass layoffs "in certain circumstances in the
interests of the protection of workers and of employment," but
said the Greek law was too vague and gave the authorities
excessive discretion "beyond what is necessary".
The fact that Greece was suffering an economic crisis and
very high unemployment is not enough to justify blocking mass
redundancy plans, the court said.
The ruling risks complicating the Greek position in talks
with its international creditors under an 86 billion euros
($89.3 billion) bailout programme, the third received by the
country since 2010.
Negotiations between Greece and its lenders on reforms
needed in the country hit a snag earlier in December on an
overhaul of the Greek labour market.
Lenders are pushing Athens to soften labour protection rules
to make layoffs easier, but the government of leftist Prime
Minister Alexis Tsipras has so far opposed the overhaul.
Talks have been further complicated after Greece decided to
give in December a 600 million euro payout to poorer pensioners
without prior consultation with its creditors.
($1 = 0.9634 euros)
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Additional reporting by
Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop/Jermey