Greek Workers Protest Firings; Officers Await Back Pay

Greek cleaning have been protesting their firings for months
Greek cleaning have been protesting their firings for months

It hasn’t worked yet, but Greek workers were to take to the streets on June 30 in another of hundreds of protests over austerity measures over the last four years, at the same time the government is moving to restore the pay of police, military and uniformed officers to obey a court order.

The civil servant’s union, ADEDY, planned a series of protests in several Greek cities to protest the public sector mobility scheme in which selected workers – predominantly the lower-paid and without political protection – are paid 75 percent of already-slashed salaries for eight months and then fired if another position can’t be found for them.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition of his New Democracy Conservatives and its partner the PASOK Socialists, have primarily targeted classes such as cleaning ladies, janitors, school nurses, teachers, crossing guards and municipal police while exempting Parliament workers, managers, consultants and other favorites.

The main demonstration was to be outside outside the Finance Ministry in Athens, where some  397 sacked cleaners have been protesting for several weeks. They initially won a court order to be rehired, but it was ignored by the government until it got a reversal from a higher court.

The union representing local authority employees, POE-OTA, has planned to rally outside the Administrative Reform Ministry to try to deliver a petition against the mobility scheme to minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who reneged on a pledge to evaluate workers before they were being fired on orders of the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).

Public sector unions have called a 24-hour strike for July 9 as well but all previous demonstrations have been ignored by successive governments which have forged ahead with pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.

While that’s going on, a meeting was due to take place between government officials, the armed forces and emergency services at the State General Accounting Office on July 1 to decide on how soldiers’ and policemen’s wages will be restored.

A Council of State ruling earlier this year ordered the government to scrap the 10 percent reduction of salaries in the armed forces and emergency services, which was introduced in 2012.

This is expected to cost the government an initial sum of 500-600 million euros. Greece has given the Troika assurances that it will implement measures to make up for this fiscal shortfall without saying how, but it would mean cuts in other areas.

The decision has spurred other workers who’ve seen pay and benefit cuts under austerity, including doctors, to go to the courts seeking the same treatment. But the government has so far ignored an order to restore the lump sums of pensioners that were cut as much as 38 percent.