Tension is mounting between local authorities and the government over the insistence of Interior Minister Panos Skourletis that municipal mayors extend the contracts of seasonal workers until the end of 2017.
The extensions would further burden municipal budgets, and critics have slammed Skourletis for trampling on the independence of local authorities, and the government for going out of its way to bypass the Constitution, which forbids the extension of contracts after 24 months.
The situation has fueled indignation among mayors across the country, who say their budgets cannot cope with the extra burden.
“They can do whatever they want. Skourletis cannot decide what I do in my own municipality,” Vassilis Kyritsis, the mayor of Kassandra in northern Greece, told Kathimerini, adding that he has to answer to local citizens who voted him into office and not to the Interior Ministry.
“By forcing me to extend the contracts of 60 cleaning workers, the minister is burdening the Kassandra Municipality with an additional 1.2 million euros, and is making us pay for unskilled workers we simply don’t need,” he said.
“In the summer we have 600,000 people here and there is a great need for seasonal workers. But what do I do with them in the winter?” he asked.
For his refusal to toe the ministry line, Kyritsis was summoned to appear before the general secretary of the Decentralized Administration of the Region of Macedonia.
Skourletis had issued a circular in early March to local authorities around the country informing them that the extension of cleaning worker contracts that expired by the end of April was obligatory. But critics say that the government is citing an amendment passed in Parliament to an irrelevant law in order to justify the extension of contracts until the end of the year.
Last week the Decentralized Administration of the Region of the Peloponnese overturned a decision by the local authorities of Corinth not to extend worker contracts. Speaking to autodioikisi.gr, Skourletis said he had intervened to overturn the decision.
Corinth Mayor Alexandros Pnevmatikos told Kathimerini that he will stick to his decision not to extend contracts.