Greek Queue Forms For Pay Restorations

Greek military officers in a mock hanging to protest pay cuts
Greek military officers in a mock hanging to protest pay cuts

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, relenting to demands from five of his lawmakers who said they would not otherwise support an amendment to restore judges’ pay and pension to pre-austerity levels, will now forward another measure to do the same for the military, police, Coast Guard, uniformed officers and emergency services personnel.

The courts had ruled in favor of both sectors, but the government of Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner the PASOK Socialists, were reluctant to obey, fearing that the pay and benefits restoration would undermine the terms of two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which put up 240 billion euros ($327 billion) and demanded pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings in return.

Facing a revolt from five New Democracy MPS, the government gave in. Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said, “There will be adjustments in due course,” to bring the uniformed officers pay back as well.

He did not specify the size of the sum that would be required, noting that the ruling ordering the revocation of salary cuts for police and armed forces staff was taken this year and so has not been budgeted for although earlier reports said it would cost at least 650 million euros.

The government, however, said it doesn’t have 3-5 million euros to rehire fired cleaning ladies who have been protesting daily outside the Finance Ministry.

Staikouras said the government would “examine ways to cover the fiscal gap that will invariably be created” by the cash it will be obliged to pay out to the uniformed officers.

Meanwhile, seeing the government willing to pay some sectors, doctors who said their pay has been cut 40 percent over the last four years said they, too, are going to sue to get their money back and pay restored. This comes after the country’s high court has also ruled unconstitutional the big cuts in lump sums pensioners earned, but which has been ignored by the government so far.

Dimitris Varnavas, the head of the Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors (OENGE,) told Kathimerini it is seeking to coordinate local unions across the country with the aim of submitting their appeals to courts of First Instance and then to the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court.

This comes as Samaras has said the country could begin to recover later this year from a crushing economic crisis largely caused by the two ruling parties packing public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of needless workers for decades in return for votes.

The court rulings are putting pressure on the country’s limited finances and the government will have to look at cuts in some areas to restore the pay of the judges and uniformed officers, and additional groups if they win in court and the rulings are honored.

Adding to that, Samaras said he’s preparing a tax cut package for 2015 that he said wouldn’t violate the terms of the bailout deals with the Troika, but which could be hampered by having to restore pay to civil servants.  Existing levies set to be revised include a special tax on heating fuel and a unified property tax, it was reported.