In a blow to the aspirations of thousands of public sectors workers, a plenary session of the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, has ruled that the law scrapping Christmas, Easter and holiday bonuses for civil servants is constitutional.
According to reports, the decision, which also impacts staff at local authorities and state entities, was taken in an acrimonious session late on Friday.
The law scrapping the bonuses was passed in 2012 and has been challenged repeatedly over its constitutionality by civil servants.
The decision upholding the legality of the cuts – less than a week before European Parliament elections – overturned a ruling more than a year ago by a section of the top administrative court that the cuts violated the Constitution.
The International Monetary Fund had estimated that the cost of retroactive payments made to civil servants in the event that the CoS deemed the law unconstitutional would have come to some 2.6 billion euros.
Meanwhile, with Sunday elections on his mind Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras suggested that a recent Easter handout to pensioners could be distributed again at Christmas. “Our goal is for an equivalent sum to be given at Christmas too,” he said.
He also said that it is a given that a planned reduction of the income tax threshold will be scrapped.
In comments to radio station News 24/7, Tsipras described the upcoming elections as a “vote of confidence” in the measures and handouts that his government announced recently. He also attributed the objections raised to his handouts by Greece’s European partners to “extremist bureaucrats.”
Furthermore, Tsipras suggested that the prevalence of conservative forces in the elections would pose a risk to the social benefits heralded by his administration.
“If the forces that are fixated on austerity prevail, then we will have problems,” he said.
“For example, if Mr Weber wins, he will call the Greek prime minister and tell him that he doesn’t approve of the package of positive measures,” Tsipras said, referring to the European People’s Party candidate for European Commission president, Manfred Weber.