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Council of Europe rules against Greece labor reform measures

The Council of Europe [official website] found Friday that two labor reforms adopted by Greece as part of wider efforts to curb the nation's financial crises were illegal. The Council's non-binding ruling [Reuters report] concerned two measures passed by the Greek government in 2010 at the urging of the country's international creditors. One provision extended to one year the "trial period" during which workers can be dismissed without notice, and the other measure cut, to two-thirds of the national minimum wage, the minimum pay for workers under 25 years of age. Based on an appeal by Greek public sector unions the Council's European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) [official website] held that the reforms contravened the European Social Charter [materials], in that the "trial period" extension contradicted the charter's mandate that workers are entitled to reasonable notice of termination, and that the lowered youth wage meant that affected young Greeks would fall below the poverty line of €580 per month. The ECSR does not have the power to enforce its ruling but can recommend to the 47-nation Council to adopt a resolution calling on Greece as a member state to take corrective action.

The Council plays a watchdog role for human rights issues across the European continent. Last month Council Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland [official profile] advocated for free and fair parliamentary elections in Ukraine [JURIST report] as he condemned the imprisonment of former prime minister and opposition party leader Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive]. In July the Council joined Amnesty International Moldova [advocacy website, in Romanian] in calling for an assessment of the constitutionality of a new law that allows chemical castration [JURIST report] of anyone found guilty of violent pedophilia. In June Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Bulgarian Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva to denounce calls to violence by anti-gay groups [JURIST report] in anticipation of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade in Sofia, on the grounds that Bulgaria, as a member state of the Council, is subject to the recommendation of the Council's Committee of Ministers to member states to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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