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The rotten kingdom of parliament

11 November 2012 / 17:11:38  GRReporter
2377 reads

Last Wednesday, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras suddenly introduced an amendment in parliament, which repealed the special status and privileges of the parliament's staff. This led to an unprecedented reaction from both the employees, who went on strike during a parliamentary meeting for the first time in the parliament's history, and the opposition (SYRIZA, Independent Greeks), so Stournaras was forced to withdraw the amendment.

"There is something rotten in the kingdom ... of the Temple of Democracy," those familiar with the situation said. Under the umbrella of self-government, within parliament's independence from the executive power provided by the Constitution, many employees, mainly party and political friends of all powers, as well as relatives and those "protected" by politicians, have been enjoying the status of a closed employees' "caste" for years.

Namely the political and trade union "vilayets" are those which always create the internal rules of the game, and the political power communicates with them within ... the self-government. But what is this? Article 65 of the Constitution provides that the parliament ensures the way of its free and democratic functioning through a statute-book, which is passed by lawmakers, and which governs the organization of the various parliamentary departments, under the supervision of the Chairman, including everything else which concerns the staff. That is, the only person who decides the issue of appointments in parliament, is its Chairman. The only time an attempt was made to change this was in 2010, when it was decided that officials be appointed only through a contest for civil servants.

The parliament assures that no new employees are currently appointed, although their number has decreased due to retirement of some officials. Furthermore, it is no longer permitted for exchangeable employees to receive a permanent status, as happened for example in 2009, when, before the elections, dozens of employees in parliamentary groups received a permanent status. However, parliamentary employees are not threatened by the danger of being placed in the reserve or of being transferred, as has happened to other state officials, and this is the main reason why they opposed the repeal of the self-government. As one employee said, "Let us further reduce our wages, but leave the self-government alone," attributing Stournaras's attempt to his tactics to face the wrath of protesters against the measures in Syntagma Square.

Parliament staff are included in the salary scale of payment for civil servants. Thus, at least bonuses are cancelled - "special benefits" (also known as the 15th and 16th wage) for "special operating conditions" - full-day sessions which often last late into the night, etc. However, other bonuses are introduced which are to be determined by the Chairman, and which will be distributed after the end of the parliamentary sessions, taking into account the "specific parliamentary functions, the volume of parliamentary work, funds saving and others."

What is not widely known is what benefits are provided in the statute-book of the parliament, which is not public. According to this statute-book, the salaries of permanent employees, increases and bonuses are determined by the regulations which are created by the Chairman and a special committee. Lawmakers only have to vote these regulations, but even they are not familiar with them. They include the so called electoral bonus (2,000 euro), which has been given since the last elections and has caused public criticism. Besides the removal of the 15th and 16th wage, the common to all civil servants bonuses, gifts, etc. are also reduced. However, the privilege to receive a double reward - once as civil servants, and again from the Solidarity Fund of Parliamentary Staff, will remain. It is estimated that for an average employee in the parliament, this double salary amounts to approximately 110,000 euro. As for the extra hours, they are 60 for all - including at nights and weekends, although not all work an equal number of hours. There are also remunerations for a category of employees, and in addition, an unknown number of all 1,311 parliament employees are commissioned to political offices, or they just deal with something unknown, unlike those who work hard enough - as stenographers, and others, who often work all night long.

Tags: Parliament civil servants privileges bonuses
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