NEWS

Wage ruling rattles government

Leaked court decision deems salary cuts for armed forces, security services illegal

A decision by the country’s highest administrative court, leaked to the media on Monday and expected to be made public over the next month, has deemed unconstitutional the wage cuts made to members of the armed forces and emergency services in 2012, meaning that the government is likely to be obliged to pay back those affected by the measure.

Although the exact details, and the repercussions, of the Council of State’s decision remained unclear, the news caused upheaval within the government amid concerns about where the money will come from to pay back withheld salaries. There were also worries that the decision could spur similar demands by other civil servants whose salaries have been cut as part of belt-tightening pledged by Greece to the troika. There are fears that the cost to the state coffers could be in excess of 400 million euros.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said authorities would respect the court’s decision, once it has been made public and its reasoning elaborated. But other senior officials expressed concern. Andreas Papamimikos, the secretary of conservative New Democracy, which leads the ruling coalition, conceded that “we will have problems as regards where to find the money.” Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis was, characteristically, more outspoken. “No matter how many court decisions there are, we won’t suddenly be able to generate money,” he said.

According to sources, the court deemed unconstitutional the fact that the decision to cut the wages was voted through Parliament in December of 2012 but applied retroactively from August of that year. It remained unclear whether the decision to cut salaries has been deemed unconstitutional itself. If so, it could set a precedent for other groups of civil servants to seek similar rulings.

The decision regarding the armed forces and emergency service staff, as well as a similar decision in favor of judicial officials, are expected to be discussed during a new round of negotiations between the government and troika officials, who are expected in Athens at the end of the month.

According to sources, senior judicial officials Monday discussed other appeals including those by independent bodies whose staff want wage cuts to be deemed unconstitutional.

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