The government plans to introduce an amendment that will allow thousands of municipal contract workers to be hired on a permanent basis via the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP), Minister of State Christoforos Vernardakis said in an interview Monday.
The move follows an amendment included in a zoning bill that was passed in Parliament before the Christmas recess whereby tens of thousands of contract workers at municipalities around the country, whose jobs were hanging in the balance, could be hired on a permanent basis.
The measure before Christmas came as thousands of people were on the brink of losing their jobs after their contracts with local authorities expired.
However, it raised concern among financial authorities, who fear it could derail the budget and ultimately pave the way for the imposition of new austerity measures.
According to Bernardakis, the amendment announced Monday will pave the way for hirings of 10,000 workers, mostly municipal cleaners but also for people working at child care centers and other municipal agencies.
Bernardakis warned that mayors who refuse to extend the contracts of workers on the grounds that the Council of Auditors has not approved the necessary funding will be in violation of the law.
The government’s main objective now is to overcome the objections raised by the Council of Auditors to the so-called “Bernardakis law,” whereby contracts expiring at the end of 2016 are extended to the end of 2017. Similar extensions were given until the end of 2016 to contracts that expired at the end of 2015.
Despite the fact that the Bernardakis law is in effect, the Council of Auditors has not approved the funding of the wages of those whose contracts were extended, saying it was unconstitutional.
Hirings to the public sector have become an issue of acrimonious debate in Parliament as the government has come under fire for allegedly seeking to “take care of its own.”
According to main opposition New Democracy, 8,000 permanent hirings were made in the public sector in 2016, inflating wage costs by 150 million euros. ND also said 27,000 people were hired as contract workers. For her part, government spokesperson Olga Gerovasili said 2,224 people have been hired since September 2015.