Sit-ins impede fiscal inspections

The troika has been in Athens since Wednesday but its monitoring of Greek finances is running into a variety of problems, as besides the disagreement with the government on a number of issues, the representatives of the country?s international creditors had to deal with sit-ins at the building they were about to visit on Thursday.

Public sector employees blocked the entrance to the Finance Ministry and the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) in protest at the planned measure of putting thousands of them on labor standby status.

As a result, the inspectors met with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos at the deputy prime minister?s office on Zalocosta Street instead, a meeting that went relatively well according to reports, making amends for a rather disastrous meeting in late August that had led to the troika?s hasty departure.

The new snags concern the labor standby system, closed-shop professions and the privatizations.

By Monday, the troika will need to have completed its assessment, while the government must have approved the labor standby system, as well as the new public sector salary system, the 2012 budget draft and the new midterm fiscal plan. Venizelos therefore had an extraordinary meeting with Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday evening, and there will be an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Public sector workers also staged sit-ins at seven other ministries on Thursday, but decided to leave during the day. Protesters intend to stay at the Finance Ministry until tonight while the sit-in at the ELSTAT building is not seen ending before Sunday.

Meanwhile the government has resorted to withholding the salaries of state employees who have outstanding tax debts, provided their monthly salary exceeds 1,000 euros. Already 20 civil aviation authority employees have had their salaries withheld.