Greek municipal workers yesterday went on strike to protest government plans to reduce the number of civil servants, a measure demanded by Greece’s international creditors before they approve their next bailout installment for the country.
The nation’s civil servants union, ADEDY, also called a four-hour work stoppage from noon for all civil servants in the capital, Athens. The municipal workers’ strike was expected to see all local services, including trash collection, suspended, with the exception of welfare and social services.
The latest stoppages came ahead of a Brussels meeting later in the day of the finance ministers of the 17 EU countries that use the euro, where Greece’s bailout was to be a major topic of discussion.
After years of fiscal mismanagement and following the global financial crisis, Greece’s financial situation worsened dramatically and the country has been dependent since May 2010 on billions of euros in rescue loans from the IMF and its euro partners. In return for the cash, the government has pledged to overhaul its economy and get its public finances into better shape.
However, the reforms, which have included big cuts in salaries and pensions, as well as repeated tax hikes, have left the economy mired in the sixth year of a deep recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 27 percent.
A public backlash has resulted in frequent violent protests and led to repeated political crises that have led to four different Greek governments in less than four years.
In a bid to reduce the country’s bloated public sector in the latest reforms, Athens is seeking to put 12,500 civil servants on administrative leave by the end of this year, with the possibility of dismissal.
They will be paid 75 percent of their normal salary and if they are not transferred to other state agencies within eight months of being put on leave, they will be subject to dismissal.
They include 2,200 school security personnel, 3,500 from the Athens municipal police, which will be disbanded and most of its members absorbed into Greece’s police force, at least 2,000 local government employees, 1,500 teachers and several employees of various ministries.