More time needed to restructure staff, says minister

A Greek minister in charge of reforming the country’s bloated public sector said late Tuesday he will need several months to overcome delays in a staff restructuring program demanded by rescue creditors.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, appointed in a cabinet reshuffle last week, made the remarks a day after meetings with the ‘‘troika’’ of debt inspectors from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The government has failed to sign up any public sector employees to a new mobility scheme — which includes involuntary staff transfers — that should have included 15,000 people by the end of 2012.

The troika officials are in Athens to approve bailout loan payouts worth 8.1 billion euros and it was unclear whether they would accept the proposed delay.

‘‘We are talking about several months. It is clear that this cannot happen in a few days or a few weeks,’’ Mitsotakis told private Skai television.

‘‘That is so the job is done properly … I am not the minister who would impose arbitrary criteria and say that everyone who is over 1.85 meters tall, is bald and wears glasses will be placed in the mobility scheme.’’

The government is hoping to wrap up negotiations with the troika by the weekend so that the next bailout payments can be considered at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday.

Debt inspectors were in talks for more than seven hours with several cabinet officials at the Finance Ministry Tuesday to discuss the civil service reductions and other pressing problems, including mounting debts at a state-backed health insurer.

The transfer program is separate from a Greek commitment to fire 4,000 civil servants by the end of the year — a pledge that triggered a recent crisis in conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ year-old coalition government.

Samaras last month ordered the closure of state broadcaster ERT, firing all 2,700 employees and shutting off the signal, so that a smaller state TV and radio operator can be launched in several weeks.

A junior coalition partner, the Democratic Left, pulled out of the government in protest, leaving Samaras with a narrow majority in parliament.

Fired ERT employees have remained at their posts, citing a high court decision that found the decision to switch off the terrestrial signal to be illegal, and are continuing unauthorized programming online.

Late Tuesday, ERT staff rejected a compromise proposal made by the government on how a transition to the new broadcaster would work.

There was no immediate reaction from the government.

The 2010-2016 eurozone and IMF bailout fund is worth 240 billion euros ($312 billion) and prevented Greece from going bankrupt. Harsh austerity measures demanded in return for the rescue loans have pushed the country into a sixth year of recession.

[The Associated Press]

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