Even as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has vowed to make another attempt to cut their pay and benefits, the Court of Audit is investigating the government’s decision to exempt parliamentary workers from cuts in pay and benefits as part of a $17.45 billion spending cut and tax hike plan that came down heavy on other workers, pensioners and the poor.
The government gave in to the parliamentary workers who threatened to walk out immediately during a Nov. 7 debate on the package if they were not exempted. If they had stopped working, the government feared it wouldn’t be able to take a vote on the measures that are being demanded by international lenders in return for a long-delayed $38.8 billion installment. Samaras said the government would run out of money on Nov. 16 otherwise.
House employees hit back at claims that they earn excessive salaries and benefits from privileges not available to other civil servants although many of their duties are routine, such s opening doors, handing out water and during other mundane chores that require little education or training. Their salaries are higher than many other government workers.
A decision to launch the probe was taken after the government hastily removed a last-minute amendment that would have brought parliamentary staff’s pay in line with the rest of the civil service. The Court of Audit argued that there are no grounds for parliamentary staff to be exempt from changes in the rest of the public sector. Judges are among those who will have deep pay cuts and are conducting work slowdowns.
It has suggested that Article 65 of the Constitution grants Parliament independence with regard to the way it exercises its role as a democratic institution but that this exclusivity does not extend to the wages and benefits of its staff.
Parliamentary workers, meanwhile, issued a statement arguing that they were being victimized. They said that reports they get 16 monthly salaries were incorrect as the extra wages they were once paid have been cut.
The employees also pointed out that they work different hours to the rest of the civil service as parliamentary sessions sometimes take place in the evening or on weekends, although the parliament is idle much of the year. “We are not asking for pity… but this is a long way from us accepting being made the scapegoats for a situation we did not create,” the staff said in their statement.