NEWS

Decision on university staff put off until Friday as PASOK becomes more skeptical

The coalition has bought itself a few more days to settle a dispute over how many of the university administrative staff it placed in a labor reserve last year it will rehire this month but there are growing differences within the government over how and if it should meet the public sector targets it has agreed with the troika.

An amendment passed through Parliament Friday means that the coalition has until next Friday, rather than this Sunday, to decide the fate of 1,134 university employees that were placed in a mobility scheme last year. This meant they would spend up to eight months in a labor pool before being rehired, moved to other positions or dismissed. That eight-month period is due to expire tomorrow.

Education Minister Andreas Loverdos, backed by Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, believes that the government should rehire as many as 880 of the staff but Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis insists that no more than 500 can be taken back because otherwise the government would have to find other public sector workers to lay off to meet the troika’s target.

On Friday, sources closes to Loverdos complained that Mitsotakis was not showing an understanding of the political sensitivities of the issue. “He is not aware of the political balances,” said the source, who preferred to remain anonymous. Those close to Mitsotakis, though, highlighted comments Loverdos made when he was health and labor minister in past governments, citing the need to reduce the number of civil servants.

The dispute over the university administrative staff appears to be part of a general change in mood within PASOK, which is starting to put up greater resistance toward measures that have been agreed but which it is having second thoughts about implementing.

According to sources, Venizelos told aides Friday that the government must re-examine its goal of sacking 7,000 civil servants this year. Athens agreed last year that it would dismiss 15,000 public sector workers by the end of 2014. More than half have already gone.

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