The Greek Parliament has approved a plan to start dismantling state agencies that have little or nothing to do and start merging others in the beginning of what labor unions said is a move to fire scores of thousands of public workers on the orders of international lenders.
Minister for Public Administration, Antonis Manitakis, said the law would shutter some 200 largely obscure and, in many cases, redundant state bodies. Three separate export promotion agencies will be merged into a single entity, while the institute that maintains the country’s master clock will be merged with two government-chartered quality certification agencies.
That comes as the wobbly coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras starts to pick up the pace of privatization of state enterprises and the sale or lease of state properties insisted upon by the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) Troika putting up $325 billion in two bailouts to prop up the country’s debt-choked economy.
It’s been nearly three years since the economic crisis began and the government only now is starting to move toward delivering on promises to cut the nearly 1 million strong civil servant sector that is bloated with scores of thousands of unnecessary workers, the Troika said.
The government has set a target of reducing the workforce by 150,000 workers by the end of 2015 and that has already set off a firestorm of protest from labor unions in both the public and private sector. So far, the New Democracy Conservative party chief Samaras has the backing of his coalition partners, the PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left whose constituencies are based in the public employees union.
Under the latest deal with its troika of international creditors, Athens has promised to put a further 25,000 public-sector employees in a special labor reserve by the end of the year, to be put on reduced pay for a year and likely fired after that.
Under the law, the government will close or merge some arcane organizations few people even know about. Among them is the national archive for historic maps, which will be merged with a separate information and cultural center, while a provincial center for technological research in the farming region of Thessaly will disappear. Some 4,500 public servants will be affected by the closures, but the government—which has resisted calls for outright layoffs—says it will try to find other jobs for them.
Manitakis told Parliament the government will only retain state services that private operators “do not want, or cannot run” in a bid to improve the efficiency of the public sector. “The procedure that is starting today will continue and will be completed in spring with the submission of a bill that will be based on the review of about an additional 1,500 state bodies or organizations,” he said.
The public sector labor union ADEDY condemned the move and said the policy would lead to the complete “dissolution” of public services, although a poll showed that 90 percent of Greeks approve of the plan to get rid of the agencies.