Government takes a tougher line on union action

Faced with unionists and civil servants occupying several ministries and public offices, the government on Friday vowed to take decisive action by cutting the pay of all those involved in the protests and anyone in departments that cannot function as a result of the action.

Prime Minister George Papandreou headed a meeting with seven high-ranking ministers during which they discussed the paralysis of the public sector as a result of the growing number of sit-ins by civil servants and local authority officials. The Finance Ministry is just one of the buildings that is under occupation by employees who seem to be taking advantage of a loophole that allows them to keep receiving their wages by claiming that they are staging ?symbolic protests? rather than actual strikes.

Papandreou and his ministers agreed that the government would dock the wages of protesters. ?The occupation of public buildings as a form of unionist action or action that is supported by unions will be considered strikes, which will be deemed illegal and abusive,? government spokesman Ilias Mossialos said in a statement.

Sources said that Papandreou hopes the initiative, which was given the all clear by legal advisers, will have a double effect: firstly, that it might lead to civil servants who are not participating in the protests putting pressure on the small groups mostly responsible for the demonstrations to stop and, secondly, that ministers who have adopted a soft approach when their departments are occupied will be encouraged to call the police.

After a week of daily protests and a 48-hour transport strike, the government is bracing for further unrest next week when the public sector union, ADEDY, and the private sector group, GSEE, have called two days of action. Hundreds of thousands of workers will walk off the job on Wednesday and Thursday. The latest austerity measures drawn up by the government are due to be voted on in Parliament on Thursday.

Apart from the unions, Papandreou will also have to keep his eye on developments in his own party ahead of the vote, which is crucial to Greece getting its sixth loan tranche. One PASOK MP who will not be voting for the bill is Thomas Robopoulos from Thessaloniki, who said that he would resign on Monday. This will not affect the tally of 154 seats the Socialists have in Parliament as he will be replaced by another candidate but it is indicative of the volatile mood among Socialist deputies.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.