Government focus turns to state staff, unions

With pressure mounting from international creditors for a series of so-called prior actions to be implemented, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to focus on streamlining the bloated civil service sector as well as containing strike action on various fronts.

According to sources, the troika is keen for the government to press ahead with a plan to put 25,000 civil servants into a so-called mobility scheme which would see most of them dismissed and a minority being transferred to understaffed sections of the public service. Sources at the Maximos Mansion said Monday that a recent wave of early retirements would likely satisfy creditors’ demands for cutbacks in the state sector. The troika has pushed for layoffs however.

It is expected that authorities will focus on the dismissal of employees found to have seriously breached the code of conduct.

Another thorn in Samaras’s side is the labor unions. Labor Ministry sources on Monday refuted reports that the government is considering making changes to labor regulations that would make it more difficult for unions to call strikes. Two of the three coalition partners, PASOK and Democratic Left, voiced objections following a report in Sunday’s To Vima newspaper that suggested Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis of New Democracy wants to make changes that would require strikes to need the support of the majority of union members, while giving management the right to enforce a lockout if employees do not return to work.

The government has been heavy-handed against strikers, issuing civil mobilization orders against Athens metro workers and seamen, but it has taken a softer stance against farmers who are seeking concessions.

In a bid to force the government’s hand, farmers, who have gathered at road junctions across Greece, said on Monday that they would hold one-hour protest marches every day.