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Municipal officials declare before Christmas war on the central government

07 December 2012 / 15:12:24  GRReporter
2411 reads

Victoria Mindova

The stubborn refusal of mayoral and municipal workers to accept the reform of the labour composition under the fiscal consolidation plan continues to pose problems in the operation of local government organizations.

After the blockade of the department of officials in the municipality of the capital city that lasted for weeks, 1,800 mayoral workers in Athens were left without pay in November. The strike actions through which the municipal workers in Athens tried to prevent some of their colleagues from being dismissed have returned like a boomerang and hit everyone. The blockade of the department of officials hampered the making of other more important lists – the lists of names for the pay for the last month.

The beginning of the mess with the department of officials was when the municipal administration was asked to send to the relevant ministry the lists of the names of 80 permanently appointed workers in order to release them by the end of the year with 75% of their salary. This is a condition of the plan for the reform of public and municipal administration, which is part of Greece’s obligations to cut its budget expenditures under the bailout agreement signed with Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

A few of the total 325 municipalities in the country obeyed the ministerial ordinance and sent the data requested by the government. The majority of municipalities have decided to disobey. It is believed that the actions of the municipal trade union in the capital are crucial for the course followed by the workers of local government organizations in the rest of the country.

GRReporter contacted the president of the trade union of municipal workers in Athens, Vassilis Polimeropoulos, who presented the views of the local opposition to the government policy.

"We will not allow any of our colleagues to be dismissed" is the main motive that trade unions have imposed on regional municipalities. The strikes and the blockades of municipal buildings began in the autumn and trade unionists began the permanent blockade of the specific department of officials in the Athens municipality in the middle of November.

"This is our protest against the decision to dismiss some of our colleagues," said Polimeropoulos. He admits that the blockades of municipal services are extreme forms of activism and explains, however, that the extreme measures that the government wants to introduce require corresponding actions of resistance.

"A large number of the workers included in the list are people of middle age or are close to retirement and they have no chance of entering the labour market," said the trade unionist. An informal conversation with municipal workers, however, makes it clear that even if the workers proposed for dismissal were young people, able to find a job in the private sector, the trade unions would not retreat from their current position. They do not believe that Greek municipalities are overburdened with support staff, nor do they agree with the government that the structure of local government organizations is in the need of reform.

Polimeropoulos insists that the government is acting on the edge of legality in its attempts to implement the fiscal consolidation in municipal services. We asked the leader of the trade union how he would justify the option of leaving  all municipal workers in Athens without pay in November for the sake of not allowing the dismissal of 80 of his colleagues, who will continue to receive 75% of their current salary without working anyway. "I prefer none of us to receive pay for five or ten days rather than to let them fire the people on the lists," stated Polimeropuulos firmly.

The trade union members are convinced that if they continue the strike, the government will have to retreat. On the other hand, the mayor of the capital, George Kaminis, is adamant that he will not tolerate double standards. It is impossible for the department of officials to be under blockade when it comes to the lists of people to be dismissed and to work properly when municipal workers want their salaries. Kaminis himself disagrees with the government's measure, but does not support the protest actions of municipal officials either.

The result of the clash between the municipal workers and the government is that during the weekend, Athens will once again wake up to bins brimming over with waste, no cleaning staff and no workers in regional offices. The threat of the trade union is that the protests will escalate if the central government does not meet their requirements. "If they want to celebrate Christmas and New Year with closed municipalities and without municipal services, so be it," concluded trade unionists before GRReporter.

Tags: SocietyMunicipalitiesStrikesMayoraltiesDismissal of workersGreeceAthensCrisis
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