After much resistance, and insistence it could reduce the public workforce through retirements and firing problem workers, Greece has agreed to shed 15,000 positions through next year, including 2,000 who will be axed after the Easter holiday.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras gave the go-ahead after meeting with his ministry officials, but not with his coalition partners, the PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left (DIMAR) who had complained they weren’t being consulted.
They had objected to the firings because public workers make up their core constituency and labor unions are setting new protests and strikes against the plans.
Greece’s crushing economic crisis has been caused largely by alternating administrations of Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and PASOK packing the public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of needless workers for generations in return for votes.
The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) wants a reduction of the workforce by 150,000 over the next three years, but the government has been resisting, fearing political fallout from labor unions.
Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras and other ministers said Greece could cut the number of civil servants through attrition and firing disciplinary cases, workers who have faked their resumes, don’t show up to work, or have committed felonies – including murder – and are still being paid.
Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, who had threatened to step down if the government went along with the Troika, changed his mind and said the first firings will be mainly from state organizations that are deemed defunct. “The initial numbers will be made up almost exclusively from the organizations operating under private law that will be closed down,” he said without going into details of when the firings would take place.
Greece has agreed that it will fire 4,000 civil servants by the end of the year. The government had wanted as many of the sackings as possible to come from bureaucrats deemed to have breached their code of conduct, but individual hearings have to be held in every case, which could take years, including appeals. That means disciplinary problems will keep their jobs.
Manitakis confirmed that a high-level committee would oversee the departures, which are one of the key pledges that Greece made to its lenders during the recent rounds of talks in Athens.
The plan for dismissals will be included in a multi-bill that has to be voted through Parliament by the end of the week so Greece can receive 8.8 billion euros ($11.44 billion) in bailout loans it is expecting in the next few weeks. The committee will then have to identify another 12,500 workers who will be let go before the end of 2014.
The layoffs seem certain to spark protests although they would be the first since the government began receiving bailout loans three years ago and imposed austerity measures in return, which have created a record 27.2 percent unemployment rate int he private sector.
The country’s labor union representing private workers will hold a 24-hour general strike on May Day to protest the policies that critics said could push unemployment to 30 percent.
Manitakis said that by June, the government will have finished the “second phase” of restructuring the civil service, which involves developing new organizational structures for ministries and job descriptions for positions. “This is the most crucial phase,” said Manitakis, who said the reductions will save money and make public services more efficient.