Athens to sack 15,000 civil servants

Tue, Feb 7, 2012, 00:00

AUSTERITY MEASURES:THE LEADERS of Greece’s three coalition parties are expected to meet prime minister Lucas Papademos today, to give their final approval to a new package of austerity measures being demanded by the troika. The talks come amid a nationwide 24-hour general strike called by the country’s two main unions.

The leaders were expected to agree on the fine details of the new austerity package yesterday, which the troika has said is a prerequisite for a €100 billion debt writedown and a new €130 billion bailout deal, but an afternoon meeting with Mr Papademos was cancelled at short notice.

The official reason for the postponement of the talks, which are eagerly awaited by Greece’s European partners, was that Mr Papademos required additional time to complete his negotiations with the troika representatives.

Yesterday evening it emerged that the government had conceded to a troika demand to sack 15,000 civil servants this year, after previous attempts failed to remove 30,000 public sector workers on 60 per cent pay for 12 months by the end of last year.

The government said it would introduce a law to allow such sackings, which it added could include personnel previously excluded from measures to reduce the size of the public sector, such as police and teachers.

On Sunday the coalition party leaders – George Papandreou of socialist Pasok, Antonis Samaras of conservative New Democracy, and Yiorgos Karatzaferis of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally – approved the broad outline of the new troika cuts.

The agreement extended to cutting 2012 government spending by 1.5 per cent of GDP, cutting wages and labour costs and recapitalising the country’s banks without taking them into state control.

But the leaders have yet to sign off on the on the finer details of the package.

One of the major sticking points was the troika’s insistence that the so-called 13th and 14th salaries paid to all private-sector workers be abolished. (They work for 12 months, but get paid for 14.) However, in the face of intense opposition from the coalition party leaders, the debt inspectors seem to have backtracked on that.

But lower-paid workers will likely see their monthly minimum wage slashed from €750 to €600.

Unions will hold a 24-hour strike today, the first this year, with a large demonstration planned for Athens city centre.

Last night, rallies called by communist trade unions and left-wing parties attracted 4,000 demonstrators in the Greek capital, despite torrential rain.