ECONOMY

Limited pay rises for civil servants in 2002

The government wants to combine a strict wage policy with enough money going toward civil servants to have a chance at getting their vote. So, in announcing relatively small wage increases for 2002, Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis stuck to the imperative of tight fiscal management, while also providing a variety of bonuses which may, in fact, undermine the fiscal policy but will keep civil servants happy. And, apparently, the civil servants are happy, which is why Floridis made his announcement yesterday, with Spyros Papaspyros, the head of the civil servants union ADEDY, on one side, and P. Vavoulios, the head of the pensioners union, on the other. Papaspyros, although a member of the ruling Socialists, has often been especially critical of the government. So, getting his agreement was no small feat. Floridis said that civil servants’ pay increases will range from 2.5 to 3.7 percent, with the average being 3.2 percent. Pensioners will get a rise of at least 3 percent, with the weighted average at 4 percent. After the wage increases, the differentials between the lowest and the highest wages will be reduced. They will be reduced even further by the various bonuses that will cost the state some 180 billion drachmas in 2002. Curiously, no such expense is provided for in the budget, leaving one wondering whether the government will resort to some of its beloved complex financial transactions which end up keeping the debt high. Floridis and Papaspyros also discussed the issue of «convergence» of the wages of Greek civil servants with those of their colleagues in other eurozone countries. The adoption of the euro by 12 European states has made the wage differentials much easier to pinpoint, with Greeks coming in, almost invariably, at the bottom. Floridis explained that real convergence must also mean a more competitive economy and more productive workers. The issue of lower productivity, however, has been rejected by the unions, who claim that this is not the reason for the lower wages.