Head of union calls it a day mid-battle

The head of the ADEDY civil servants? union, Spyros Papaspyros, who had been involved in a public row with the government over further changes to bureaucrats? salaries and working conditions, said on Monday that he will be standing down from his position.

Although Papaspyros had hinted at his imminent departure last year, his decision to announce it as tension between the government and Greece?s civil servants appears to be building to a new crescendo was somewhat of a surprise, especially as the ADEDY president cited personal reasons for standing aside.

?I have gone beyond my personal limits,? he told Vima FM radio. ?When you have been president of ADEDY for 10 years, you reach a certain personal limit.?

Papaspyros became head of Greece?s second-largest union, which represents some 800,000 workers, in 2000 and had until recently been a staunch supporter of Prime Minister George Papandreou. In fact, Papaspyros threatened to quit the Socialist party in 2007 if Evangelos Venizelos, now the finance minister, beat Papandreou in a leadership contest.

Since last year, however, Papaspyros has developed close relations with politicians on the left wing of PASOK and with those who have quit the ruling party, such as Yiannis Dimaras, because of their opposition to the austerity measures that have accompanied Greece?s emergency loan packages.

Dimaras went on to create a new party, the Citizens? Chariot, but Papaspyros denied he had any intention of getting involved in politics. ?Regardless of what has been written, if you look back, I rejected the two or three opportunities I had to join the political scene,? he said.

If Papaspyros does shun politics, he will be bucking the trend of the last couple of decades for Greece?s top unionists to become MPs and ministers.